A CHILDREN'S centre at the heart of an E coli outbreak has been allowed to stay open up until today, sparking anger amongst those affected.

Victims of the outbreak in Dorset have spoken of their shock that the public was only informed of the problem this morning.

So far 10 people in Dorset have contracted the infection and seven of them have kidney problems, including a three-year-old girl who attends Blandford Children's Centre.

The centre- attended by two children who have contracted E coli- has remained open this week.

This is despite the grandmother of the three-year-old informing the centre the girl had E coli on Monday morning.

The woman said she is 'very angry' the centre has remained open.

Her granddaughter is currently in Southampton Hospital undergoing dialysis and her condition is described as 'very serious.'

She is one of 10 people to have contracted the infection in Dorset.

“It feels like a bad dream,” said the grandmother.

“It's absolutely horrendous. I am so angry. Why was [the centre] allowed to remain open?

“It may be closed now but I know for a fact it was open on Monday and Tuesday.

“They do things at that centre like changing nappies. E coli is passed through bodily fluids- the centre should have been shut.

“My granddaughter is really, really ill and we've been told she will probably get worse before she gets better.”

Dorset County Council has confirmed the first case linked to the centre happened in mid-October.

It closed the centre for three days whilst 'deep cleaning' was carried out.

Shortly after this, a second case involving a child from Blandford who attended the Shaftesbury Children's Centre was reported. Again, a room was closed for cleaning.

On Monday, the three-year-old's case was reported.

Vanessa Glenn, head of family support at DCC said: “While there is no indication of a direct link between the nursery [the centre] and recent cases, we are working closely with Public Health England and local authority environmental health officers to help tackle the problem.

"We are co-ordinating the collection of stool samples from all children who attend the nursery, as well as staff. Our staff have also undergone blood tests.

“We have decided voluntarily to close the Blandford nursery until we know the results of these tests. The safety and welfare of our children is of paramount importance. Parents have been kept fully informed throughout this process, and are being advised of the closure.”

Meanwhile, a woman who feared she would die after contracting E coli has slammed Public Health England for ending its investigation too soon.

Jessica Archer, 25, a nurse who works in Blandford, developed symptoms a month after her three-year-old nephew Isaac Mortlock fell ill with the same condition in July.

She said Isaac developed symptoms just days after the family had eaten together at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday.

Ms Archer spent a week in hospital where the HUS attacked her kidneys and liver before being transferred to London, where doctors utilised plasma exchange treatment and blood transfusions in a bid to keep her alive.

After two weeks in London, Ms Archer was discharged, but continues to undergo regular blood tests.

“They [PHE] looked into our case and the restaurant we went to - but couldn't find anything there,” she said. “They shut our case.

“It's been an absolutely horrendous experience. Members of our family told us that we both might die.”

However, last week Ms Archer received a call telling her seven other people in Dorset had fallen ill with E coli and that they would investigate her and Isaac's cases again.

“We are upset our case got closed and if they had investigated more maybe there wouldn't have been any more cases,” she said.

E coli

E coli, or Escherichia coli, is a common bacteria found in the intestines.

Although usually harmless, some types can cause gastrointestinal problems and result in severe illness.

Found in the faeces, the bacterium can survive outside the body and cause intestinal infection, cystitis and urinary tract infections.

A common way of becoming infected is through eating contaminated food.

Symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea that may be bloody.

Haemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication which affected some of the sufferers in Dorset, develops in up to 10 per cent of people infected and can lead to renal failure.

People of all ages are at risk, but children are particularly vulnerable to more severe infections because they cannot tolerate as much fluid loss through vomiting and diarrhoea.

'Wash hands thoroughly'

Noëleen McFarland, Consultant in Health Protection at PHE Wessex, said: “We are working closely with colleagues in the North Dorset Environmental Health Department to identify possible sources of infection. It is an infection that can be passed easily from person to person and young children are particularly easily affected.

“Any infection with E. coli can be very serious. We have interviewed all of those affected or their parents and their close contacts to look for possible causes in the days before they became ill. This information is being used in the ongoing investigation into these cases.

“We want to stress the importance of good hand hygiene. Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water after using the toilet, before and after handling food and after contact with animals including farm animals. Small children should be supervised in washing their hands. Remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruit that will be eaten raw.”