A NEW case of rare E coli O55 infection has been identified in Dorset, with a cat also affected.

Public Health England, which is investigating the ongoing outbreak, said the adult affected was not hospitalised and has recovered well from the illness, as has the animal.

To date, 26 cases of this particular strain of E coli have been confirmed in the county, and it is now believed that pets might be carrying the disease.

Health protection consultant Noëleen McFarland said: “PHE would like to reassure the public that The investigation into this unusual strain is ongoing.

“What we now know is that cats and other pets could be spreading this bacteria but they are not the source.

“E coli is a type of bacteria that is found in the guts of cattle and other ruminants, whilst cats and other pets can act as carriers passing this on to humans in their faeces.”

Both the person and cat affected were from the same household, but however the agency will not reveal the locations of cases, citing patient confidentiality.

No common source has yet been identified for the outbreak, which is only in Dorset.

It has seen several adults and children hospitalised with serious complications following infection over the last 14 months.

Those affected last year included 25-year-old nurse Jessica Archer, four-year-old Kallie Stark, three-year-old Joseph Fincham-Dukes and three-year-old Isaac Mortlock, all of whom faced a fight for life after developed haemolytic-uraemic syndrome.

E coli O55 has not previously been identified in the UK; tests are currently being developed to identify its presence in animals.

“Typically there is an increase in the number of cases of E coli over the summer months as people tend to go out more, they might touch a fence post or gate which a wild animal has been in contact with,” said Ms McFarland.

“We know E coli can be carried by foxes, rodents and rabbits.

“In order to prevent infection, we are urging local urge people to be extra vigilant and maintain good hand hygiene – washing hands thoroughly using soap and water after contact with pets and other animals including farm animals, after using the toilet, before and after handling food.”

Dorset has seen several cases of the common strain E coli O157 in the last year. In either form, infection can have minor symptoms, or it can result in lead to potentially life-threatening complications.