Written Answers. - E.coli Infections.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

125 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Health and Children if, further to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 55 and 69 of 18 November 1998 regarding E.coli 0157 where an inaccurate reply was given, he will provide details of the number of such cases per health board in each of the past three years; if, in view of the absence of accurate figures, he will designate E.coli 0157 as a notifiable disease in order that it can be properly monitored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1957/99]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

524 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will report on the number of E-coli infections in humans reported in 1998; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1529/99]

Deirdre Clune

Question:

624 Ms Clune asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has received a report from the E.coli 0157 task force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2104/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 125, 524 and 624 together.

Based on returns which it has received from the health boards, I am advised by the newly established national disease surveillance unit that there were eight cases of E.coli 0177 in humans recorded in 1996, 31 cases in 1997 and 76 cases in 1998. The number of cases in each health board is as follows:

Number of Cases

1996

1997

1998

Eastern Health Board

2

15

18

North-Eastern Health Board

0

0

2

North-Western Health Board

0

0

7

Western Health Board

4

6

19

Mid-Western Health Board

0

2

4

Southern Health Board

1

5

16

South-Eastern Health Board

1

2

4

Midland Health Board

0

1

6

Total

8

31

76

While there is a legal requirement under the infectious diseases regulations 1981-1996 to notify cases of food poisoning generally, E.coli 0157 is not specifically notifiable. The question of designating E.coli 0157 as a notifiable disease will be among the issues considered by the national disease surveillance unit in the context of its review of the existing list of notifiable diseases. The review will commence this year.
In July 1998 the scientific committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, through its microbiology sub-committee, established a task force to examine the issue of E.coli 0157 in the Irish context. I understand that the report of this task force is currently being finalised and will be available in the near future.