At least 37 people have been admitted to hospital in an E. coli outbreak believed to be linked to food, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Whole genome sequencing of samples indicates most of the 113 cases reported across the UK between May 25 and June 24 are part of a single outbreak, the UKHSA said.

Owing to the “wide geographic spread of cases”, the agency believes the outbreak – which has mostly affected young adults – is linked to a nationally distributed food item or multiple food items.

The UKHSA said it is working with public health agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland to determine the cause of people’s illness.

E. coli are a diverse group of bacteria that are normally harmless and live in the intestines of humans and animals. (Image: Getty Images)

Trish Mannes, incident director at UKHSA, said: “If you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you can take steps to avoid passing it on to family and friends.

“ has information on what to do if you have symptoms and when to seek medical advice.

“Washing your hands with soap and warm water and using disinfectants to clean surfaces will help stop infections from spreading.

“If you are unwell with diarrhoea and vomiting, you should not prepare food for others while unwell and avoid visiting people in hospitals or care homes to avoid passing on the infection in these settings.

“Do not return to work, school or nursery until 48 hours after your symptoms have stopped.”

Where have the cases of E.coli been reported?

At the moment the UKHSA has broken down the cases in the UK as follows:

  • 81 in England
  • 18 in Wales
  • 13 in Scotland
  • 1 in Northern Ireland (for this case, evidence suggests that they acquired their infection while visiting England)

In a statement, the agency said: "Based on the wide geographic spread of cases, it is most likely that this outbreak is linked to a nationally distributed food item or multiple food items."

Darren Whitby, head of incidents and resilience at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said: "The FSA is working with UKHSA and relevant public health bodies to identify the source of the illness, which is likely to be linked to one or more food items.

"We always advise consumers and those looking after vulnerable people to ensure good hygiene practices are followed when handling and preparing food, regularly washing hands with soap and warm water and ensuring equipment, utensils and surfaces foods come into contact with are cleaned thoroughly to prevent cross-contamination.

"You should not prepare food for others if you have had symptoms, or for 48 hours after symptoms stop."

It is unknown at the time of writing what food item is thought to be behind the E.coli outbreak.

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What are the symptoms of E.coli?

According to the NHS Inform website, the symptoms of E.coli can include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and occasionally fever.

People usually notice symptoms around three to four days after they have been infected.

However, symptoms can start any time between one and 14 days afterwards

It is often transmitted by eating contaminated food but can also be spread by close contact with an infected person.