Investigations are ongoing into an outbreak of salmonella which health experts say could have a possible link to a butchers shop.
Public Health England North East say although a definitive source has not yet been confirmed, several of the affected people are known to have eaten pre-cooked meats and savouries from Chapman and Sons butchers in Blackhall Colliery.
A further four cases of salmonella infection possibly linked to this outbreak have been confirmed.
This brings the total number to 12 salmonella cases reported in adults living in the Horden, Blackhall Colliery, Hesleden and Hartlepool area. Two of the cases remain in hospital.
Public Health England North East’s health protection team continues to work closely with the environmental health and public health teams from Durham County Council to investigate all possible sources of the outbreak.
As a precaution, local residents in the south of County Durham and in Hartlepool are being advised not to eat any cold pre-cooked meats and savouries bought on or before February 19, from Chapman and Sons butchers in Blackhall Colliery.
Salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning and symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, and sometimes vomiting and fever.
Consultant in health protection and chair of the outbreak control team, Dr Deb Wilson, said: “The source of this outbreak is not yet known.
"However, several of the affected people are known to have eaten cooked meat products and savouries from Chapman and Sons butchers in Blackhall Colliery.
“Although our investigation is at a very early stage, as a precautionary measure we are advising anyone who has bought cooked meats or savouries from Chapman and Sons butchers on or before February 19, 2018, and still has them in their fridge or freezer, not to eat them and to throw them out immediately.
“The owners and staff of Chapman and Sons butchers are co-operating fully with the investigation and have discarded ready to eat foods from their premises while the investigation continues.
“The business has also carried out a deep clean of their premises, and reinforced good hygiene practices.
“Anyone who has eaten cooked meats and savouries bought since the beginning of February from Chapman and Son butchers and currently has diarrhoea should contact their GP in the usual way.”