A VIRAL infection could have caused an outbreak of illness at a charity ball in Leigh, Public Health England has stated.

On Thursday, the Echo reported on claims guests became ill when Equal People Performing Arts, Rayleigh, hosted its charity ball at the Arlington Ballroom, London Road, on May 4.

A guest stated that at least 60 guests had been taken ill.

But now, Public Health England have revealed that initial assessments of the incident appear to show the illness was caused by a viral infection - passing from person to person.

The Government agency has stated it believes gastroenteritis is the cause.

Southend Council initially stated it was investigating the outbreak of illness, but admitted it is too early to say what the cause of the illness was.

Dr Smita Kapadia, consultant in communicable disease control for Public Health England East of England said: “Gastroenteritis affects people of all ages.

"It can be highly contagious and although unpleasant, people usually recover within two to three days.

"Good hygiene measures such as hand washing and disinfecting contaminated surfaces is the key to preventing this infection from spreading."

Elizabeth Georgeou, group manager of regulatory services at Southend Council, told how action was being taken.

She said: “Our Environmental Health team is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding reports of illness following an event in Southend on May 4.

“It is important to emphasise that it is too early to say what the cause of this illness was.

“We are working with other relevant health professionals to gather evidence and establish the cause as a priority.

“At this stage it would be inappropriate to speculate about what the investigation may find.”