Irish E. coli outbreak affects nearly 300 restaurant patrons

Nearly 300 people are suspected to have contracted E. coli from a Belfast restaurant in what is considered Northern Ireland's worst outbreak of the bacterial illness.

Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency recently announced that the number of laboratory confirmed cases has reached 119, with another 163 probable cases, according to

Probable cases include those that were exposed to the bacteria and show corresponding symptoms but have not been tested for E. coli in a clinical laboratory.

The Belfast restaurant, Flicks, was recently connected to a previous E. coli outbreak in August that sickened at least four people. The PHA announced that the two incidents are not related and the bacteria involved differ genetically.

Flicks voluntarily shut its doors on October 9, pending an investigation into the factors that led to the outbreak. A Northern Ireland health officials recently called the outbreak the worst ever in Northern Ireland. He said no other E. coli outbreak in the country had resulted in more than 20 cases of infection, reports.

"The PHA has activated a full public health response to this outbreak and the situation is being managed and monitored very closely," PHA's Director of Public Health, Dr. Carolyn Harper, said, reports.