Food poisoning is dangerous, avoid it

Posted by Adaora Anozie

On September 27, 2016

The Lagos State Government, last week disclosed that 45 cases of cholera had been recorded in one community in the state, with six deaths. Giving an update on the outbreak, at a press conference in Lagos, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris explained that 39 victims were still under observation across the state.

According to the commissioner, the main source of the outbreak has been traced to local consumption of salad called Abacha, a staple food of the residents of the area. Samples of the local salad and well water were collected from those affected and analysed.

The report of the analysis revealed that the local salad and the well water were contaminated with vibro cholerae, Salmonella species and E. Coli.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is any illness caused by eating food or drink that is contaminated with certain types of bacteria, parasites, viruses or toxins, just like the incident that occurred in the Lagos community mentioned above.

Symptoms of food poisoning include vomiting, frequent watery stools, stomach pains or cramps, sweating, fever or chills, headache and lethargy (extreme tiredness).

Food can become contaminated when it is not prepared under hygienic conditions, including lack of hand washing. Food can also be contaminated when meat is under-cooked or touched by someone who has diarrhoea; through contact with pets, flies or other pests; when raw meat and ready-to-eat foods come into contact with each other; when food is stored at unsafe temperatures that allows bacteria to grow and when fruits, vegetables and eggs are contaminated with human faeces, animal manure or water contaminated by animal manure.

Types of food poisoning

Salmonellosis: Characterised by abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhoea, fever, vomiting and headache. Symptoms begin to manifest between a few hours after infection and five days. The bacteria, salmonella, is the same organism that causes Typhoid fever and it can be found in contaminated food and drink, fish or shellfish from contaminated waters.

Cholera: It is characterised by profuse, watery diarrhoea (characteristic ‘rice water’ faeces), nausea and vomiting, dehydration, fever and stomach cramps. Symptoms also manifest between a few hours after infection and five days. The bacteria vibio cholerae is the causative organism and can be from contaminated food, faeces, raw chicken and meat, undercooked eggs and raw egg mayonnaise.

E.coli (ETEC): Diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. Illness can develop into severe fatal illness between two and eight days. It is caused by undercooked beef, unpasteurised milk, sprouts and contaminated water.

Treatment for food poisoning typically depends on the source of the illness, if known and the severity of the symptoms. The illness may be resolved within a few days, although some types of food poisoning may last longer and severe.

Treatment includes the replacement of lost fluids. Fluids and electrolytes that maintain the balance of fluids in the body are lost to persistent diarrhoea and needed to be replaced. Those with persistent diarrhoea or vomiting may need hospitalisation, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously) to prevent or treat dehydration. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics in certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and severe symptoms.

The best way to prevent food poisoning is to ensure that one maintains a high standard of personal and food hygiene when storing, handling and preparing food. Regularly washing of hands with soap and water after handling raw food, particularly after going to the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy, before preparing food, after handling raw food and after touching bins or pets is necessary.

It is important to cook food thoroughly, particularly meat and most types of seafood, in order to kill any harmful bacteria that may be present.

Certain foods need to be kept at the correct temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. Immunization against cholera and salmonella is also important.

Public health advice to affected communities and their neighbours

The food vendors in an affected community will need to pass a screening test before selling food to the public. This will be conducted by a doctor who will hand them a certificate of fitness. The risk of contracting the disease is mainly by poor water and environmental sanitation, including open defecation.

Members of an affected community must engage in personal hygiene, endeavour to wash their hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, especially after using the toilets. They are to boil their water before drinking, especially if they are not sure of the source. They should stop open defecation, which has been linked to outbreak of cholera and diarrhoea.

by Rotimi Adesanya

culled from PUNCH