Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC), named because of its ability to produce verotoxins (VT1 and VT2), causes acute diarrhoeal illness that can be complicated by haemorrhagic colitis and haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). VTEC has a low infectious dose (as low as 10 cells) with a relatively long incubation period of 1-8 days. E. coli O157: H7 is epidemiologically the most significant serotype in Ireland, though others including E. coli O26, O111, O103 and O145 have also been detected.
Cattle are the primary reservoir for VTEC, although it can be isolated from a variety of other healthy animal carriers including sheep, horses, goats, pigs and wild birds. VTEC can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated food, water, environment and animals, or by person-to-person contact. VTEC outbreaks have been linked to the consumption of a variety of foods including minced beef and beef burgers, fresh produce, raw milk, cold cooked meats, unpasteurised apple juice and drinking water.
See our FAQ on VTEC