HEALTH experts investigating a serious outbreak of salmonella across the region have revealed that the number of reported cases is continuing to grow.

So far, a total of 68 cases of salmonella poisoning have been reported in the North-East since August 9.

Officials have also revealed that the particular strand of the virus, salmonella typhimurium PT204b, is rare in Britain.

Five people are already known to have been admitted to hospital, although none has been seriously ill.

The number of confirmed cases has been spread evenly across the region, with 16 in County Durham and Darlington, eight in Teesside, 15 in Gateshead and South Tyneside, 19 in North Tyneside and Newcastle, eight in Northumberland and two in Sunderland.

Although the investigation has yet to find a common factor for the outbreak, experts believe the rare strand of salmonella has entered the food chain.

The investigation, which has confirmed a further three cases in the region in the past few days, is being led by County Durham and Darlington Health Authority and the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre.

A County Durham and Darlington Health Authority spokesman said: "Although the number of cases is slowly decreasing, there are still more being confirmed and, as yet, the investigation has yet to pinpoint a common cause for the outbreak."