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Tuesday, August 24, 1999 Published at 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK


Holiday E. coli outbreak hits fourth family

Heather Preen died earlier this month

The E. coli outbreak affecting a UK holiday resort has struck a fourth family.

Three of the family's five children contracted the bug after visiting Dawlish Warren in south Devon.

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Officials have yet to pinpoint the source of the outbreak, although environmental campaigners said it has come from sewage on the beaches - an accusation the local health authority denies.

The latest victims of the bug - a boy aged four and two girls aged 11 months and 10 years - were in a stable condition at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, a spokesman said.

Health officials say they visited Dawlish Warren at the same time as Heather Preen - an eight-year-old girl who spent her holidays at the resort with her parents and died of E. coli food poisoning last week

Two other children picked up the bug at same time, but have since recovered.

Peter Haynes - father of the hospital's latest patients - told the BBC of his concerns.

"I thought they were going to die," he said.

Dr Gill Lewenden, South and West Devon Health Authority's consultant in communicable disease control, said it seemed the youngest child had infected the other two, but that it was the same strain of the bug as the earlier cases.

Sewage 'not to blame'

Although a source for the infection has yet to be confirmed, the authority rejected the suggestion that raw sewage was to blame.

The Cornwall-based environmental pressure group Surfers Against Sewage said on Thursday they had learned of three incidents of raw sewage being discharged across a footpath and on to a beach at nearby Dawlish.

South West Water admits that sewage related debris which had blocked a pipe was washed out through a storm overflow during construction work on 24 July, and some flowed onto the beach.

However, Brian Jones, chief executive of Teignbridge council, said analysis of sand, seawater and seaweed showed no trace of E. coli.

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