23 September 2010
The Health Protection Agency with support from Health Protection Scotland, the Food Standards Agency and Environmental Health Officers from a number of local authorities is investigating an increase in cases of Salmonella Bareilly.
The Agency's Centre for Infections (CFI) in Colindale has identified 68 cases of S. Bareilly, including 19 reported in the North West of England, since the beginning of August. The CFI normally sees fewer than 10 cases in a typical month.
Health Protection Scotland is investigating 15 laboratory confirmed cases of S. Bareilly in the same period.
An Outbreak Control Group chaired by Dr. Joe Kearney, a Director with the HPA's Local and Regional Services Division, is investigating the national increase in cases.
Dr. Kearney said: "Outbreaks of Salmonella Bareilly are under investigation in North West England and Scotland and a greater than expected number of cases have been observed in England. We're exploring the links between the North West and Scottish outbreaks and attempting to find potential sources of the national increase. It's an extensive exercise."
Health Protection Units throughout England have been asked to collate information on S. Bareilly cases within their geographical areas. A team from the Agency is contacting people who contracted laboratory-confirmed S. Bareilly since the beginning of August and inviting them to complete a questionnaire.
Dr. Kearney said: "Salmonella infection can be debilitating, especially for young children and older people. It is important for anyone with symptoms to maintain their fluid levels and take the utmost care with hand-washing and hygiene generally."
Notes to editors
This aim of this investigation is to identify the cause of the national increase in S. Bareilly cases. During the investigation it was reported to the Food Standards Agency that routine testing of salad produce by wholesalers for quality control purposes had identified Salmonella in a small number of raw beansprout samples. We do not know if the Salmonella isolated from the samples was S. Bareilly. Therefore it would not be appropriate, certainly at this stage, to conclude that contaminated beansprouts were responsible for the national increase in S. Bareilly cases. However, we are investigating further.
It is important to stress that our investigation into possible links between raw beansprouts and the increase in S. Bareilly cases is only one line of enquiry. The position remains that we have not yet identified the source of infection in our Group C Salmonella Bareilly cases.
Having been informed that Salmonella had been isolated in some raw beansprout samples, the Food Standards Agency rightly issued a reminder to the catering industry and the public that it is essential to wash and cook raw beansprouts before consumption - as advised on the packaging of these products. We fully support the FSA in this action.
If the advice is followed and care is taken in catering establishments to avoid cross-contamination when handling raw food products, infection from this potential source can be avoided.
Please see the FSA website on http://www.food.gov.uk/
Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in the gastrointestinal tracts of wild and domestic animals and birds, especially poultry, and occasionally in humans. Salmonella Bareilly is a strain of Salmonella that causes gastro-enteritis in humans through consumption of contaminated food.
Infection with Salmonella can cause watery and sometimes bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, vomiting and fever.
Illness can range from mild to severe. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to have severe illness. In some cases, Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the blood stream and then to other body sites and can be fatal without treatment. However, death from salmonella infection is rare.
Salmonella Infection frequently results from contact with contaminated food products; the cross-contamination of cooked food by raw food; and/or a failure to cook food properly. Contact with infected animals may also result in human infection. Person-to-person spread can occur, particularly during the diarrhoeal phase of illness.
The majority of patients with salmonella infection make a full recovery without any specific treatment. Recovery is aided by the replacement of fluids. The advice of a health professional should be sought in cases of severe diarrhoea.
In rare events when infection spreads from the intestines to the blood stream, prompt hospital treatment with appropriate antibiotics is required.
Salmonella can be prevented by the correct storage and cooking of foods and by hygienic food handling and preparation. Avoidance of certain foods, for example unpasteurised milk and dairy products and raw eggs will also lower the risk of illness.
Advice on the safe preparation, storage, cooking and handling of food is available on the Food Standards Agency website.
Hands should be washed thoroughly before eating or preparing food, after handling raw meat or poultry, after using the toilet, after changing nappies and after cleaning up after others with diarrhoea. Hand-washing after contact with domestic or farm animals is vitally important and children who have touched animals should be supervised when washing their hands.
For further information on salmonella infection visit www.hpa.org.uk
Press release issued by Hugh Lamont, Regional Communications Manager, HPA North West.
Tel. 0151 482 5728 or 07764 906508.
Last reviewed: 23 September 2010