A popular Northern Ireland restaurant at a landamrk retail centre has closed down while the Public Health Agency investigates an E coli outbreak.
Ten suspected cases of the bacteria-caused illness have been identified by health protection officers investigating Flicks restaurant at the Cityside Mall, previously known as Yorkgate.
Four of the 10 have been treated in hospital for severe symptoms. And the PHA has issued an alert to anyone who has eaten in Flicks since September 24 to get in touch with their GP if they have experienced symptoms of abdominal pain or diarrhoea.
The management of Flicks voluntarily closed the premises while its co-operates with the probe by the PHA’s officers along with environmental health officers from Belfast City Council.
The PHA says four adults were admitted to hospital, and most if not all have been discharged.
“The investigation into the source of the outbreak continues but as a precautionary measure, the restaurant has closed,” a spokesman said.
The PHA has advised that anyone who has eaten at Flicks restaurant since September 24 and has symptoms of diarrhoea, especially bloody diarrhoea, and/or abdominal pain, should contact their GP urgently for medical advice.
Dr Michael Devine, public health consultant with the PHA, said: “The E coli bacteria is commonly found in the intestines of humans and animals. There are many different types of E coli, and while some live in the intestine quite harmlessly, others may cause a variety of diseases. The bacterium is found in faeces and can survive in the environment. Symptoms caused by E coli O157 can include diarrhoea, which can range from mild to profuse watery or bloody diarrhoea, tummy cramps, nausea or vomiting.”
Symptoms last for about two weeks on average, Dr Devine said.
The first case was detected on October 9 and the restaurant closed on October 11, he added.
Dr Devine added: “We alerted general practitioners on Friday that there had been an increase in E coli in the Belfast area and then subsequently, on Saturday, we advised particularly of the association with Flicks restaurant.
“At this stage it seems to be mainly adults involved, but obviously our investigations are ongoing and it may be that children have been affected.
“At this point, what we're trying to do is encourage people if they have eaten at Flicks restaurant, particularly on or around October 4, and they've got symptoms of diarrhoea, particularly bloody diarrhoea, or tummy pains, that they would get medical advice from their GP.”
Some people could have been infected but not be experiencing any symptoms, he said.
“With E coli 0157, it can be a very serious infection and that's why we're raising this alert, but some people can have very minimal or even no symptoms.”
A spokesman for Flicks Restaurant said: “We are fully co-operating with the Public Health Agency’s investigation into a recent E coli outbreak. As soon as they contacted us regarding the investigation we immediately closed the restaurant. We will continue to assist the PHA in finding the source of this outbreak.”
Symptoms of E Coli O157 range from mild gastroenteritis to severe diarrhoea The condition can be fatal. The bacteria-caused illness occurs through consumption of food or water that has become contaminated by faeces from infected animals, or from exposure to an environment contaminated with animal faeces, such as farms and similar premises with animals open to the public.