U.K. E. Coli Outbreak: Two Die, Over 150 Infected

A lab technician prepares a bacteria culture with potential enterohemorrhagic E. coli, also known as the EHEC bacteria, at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg on June 2, 2011. In the U.K., an outbreak of E. coli killed two people. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Public Health England (PHE) has issued a warning amid concerns of an E.coli outbreak seemingly caused by unwashed salad leaves.

PHE has advised that people thoroughly wash mixed salad leaves before consumption after 151 people Britons fell ill, and two died after consuming pre-packed salad, including rocket. Sixty-two people required hospital attention.

E. coli is a bacterium is found in the gut of many animals, particularly cattle, and can contaminate food and water. Symptoms of infection in humans include abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea, and can start any time between one and 14 days after ingesting the bacterium.

Samples from those who had fallen ill suggest that the strain involved has been imported, possibly from the Mediterranean area .

"All food sample results to date have been negative for E. coli O157—but it's important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E. coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing," said Dr. Isobel Oliver from PHE. "As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations."

People can take a number of precautionary measures to guard themselves from possible infection. Everyone is advised to wash their hands before consuming or handling food as well as washing all fruit and vegetables thoroughly, unless products are specifically marked "ready to eat."

"We are supporting Public Health England and working with them on this issue," a spokeswoman for Health Protection Scotland said . "We would encourage people to follow the advice that has been issued."