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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK


E. coli victim died on holiday

Heather Preen died of E. coli poisoning

An eight-year-old girl who died of E. coli food poisoning contracted the bug while on holiday with her parents.

Another child is in hospital following an outbreak of E. coli at the holiday resort of Dawlish Warren, south Devon.

Four other children are thought to have been affected by the outbreak over the past three weeks.

Three of the children were on holiday, while the other three lived locally and were visiting holidaymakers.

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The child who died has been named as eight-year-old Heather Preen from Rednal in Birmingham.

She had been infected with E. coli O157, which causes persistent diarrhoea, violent sickness and other symptoms in humans.

Public health experts have admitted that the source of the infection will probably never be traced.

However, Dr Jim O'Brien, director of public health at South and West Devon Health Authority, said: "I would like to reassure local residents and holidaymakers that extensive investigations have been undertaken and all necessary precautions are in place.

"Although the source of the infection has not been identified, there have been no further confirmed cases and it is extremely unlikely there is any increased risk to the public."

Potentially deadly

Many other types of the bacterium are harmless to humans.

However, in some cases infection with O157 can lead to kidney failure and prove fatal.

This was the case with Heather Preen.

Her mother Julie Preen has advised other parents to be vigilant for the symptoms of E. coli 0157.

She said: "I don't want any other children to go through what Heather and we experienced.

"It's a really horrible thing that shouldn't happen to a child.

"She was a lovely girl, everything you could want as a child, she was happy, the life and soul of us all."

The Preen family travelled down to Devon on July 24. Heather's parents first noticed their daughter was ill one night but she was playing on the beach again next day.

Then she deteriorated and doctors told them to keep her fluids up and not to give her anything to eat.

However, after a few days, she had to be taken to hospital in Exeter where her parents were told her kidneys had failed.

Heather was later moved to hospital in Bristol, where she later died in her parents' arms.

South and West Devon Health Authority has taken samples from local food outlets as a precaution but they have proved negative.

Water supplies have also been tested, but the authority still cannot pin down the source of the infection.

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