15 July 2013
An investigation is underway into an outbreak of salmonella infection linked to summer barbecue events during the weekend of 6-7 July.
Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health, said “The situation was brought to my attention towards the end of last week after recognition of a small number of linked cases of salmonella infection. My Health Protection team in conjunction with Dr Ivan Muscat, Consultant Microbiologist, are undertaking a comprehensive investigation.
“I am pleased to report that the likely source of infection has been identified and removed, and there is no reason to believe there is any ongoing risk of infection. All those who have been exposed to risk are being contacted individually.
“There were 14 laboratory-confirmed cases by midday on Monday 15 July. However the latest information is that over 60 people (including the 14 confirmed cases) who are part of the investigation have reported symptoms compatible with salmonella infection, so we are expecting final numbers to be much higher.”
Second most common cause of food poisoning
Dr Ivan Muscat, Consultant Microbiologist, said “Salmonella is the second most common cause, behind campylobacter, of bacterial food poisoning in the British Isles. The number of salmonella cases of food poisoning has halved in the last 10 years.
“Anyone can get a salmonella infection, and symptoms are often very unpleasant and debilitating. Lasting up to seven days, these include diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and malaise, sometimes accompanied by fever and vomiting. Illness is more severe at the extremes of age and in those with underlying illness. Rehydration is always important and some patients will also require treatment with antibiotics.
“Most cases of salmonella are associated directly, or via cross-contamination with raw meat, especially poultry, beef and pork. Raw eggs, and products containing raw egg, such as mayonnaise, remain other well-known vehicles for transmitting salmonella. Contact with live animals is yet another route, as is cross-infection from infected individuals. Therefore careful attention to hand hygiene is very important in order to prevent the spread of infection within a family setting.”
Val Cameron of the Health Protection Service has issued some timely general advice on food safety:
- Don't assume that because meat is charred on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside
- Some lean meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle) as long as the outside has been properly cooked. This will kill any bacteria that might be on the outside of the meat. However, food made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers, must be cooked thoroughly all the way through so should be piping hot before serving
- Always wash your hands after touching raw meat, and keep other foods such as salads, dressings and sauces cold in a cool box until use