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Food-borne Illness

More people than ever before are buying ready to eat food, fast food, and dining out in cafes and restaurants. This change has given people new choices in the food that they eat – but it has also created new problems. One of the problems is the risk of food-borne illness/es.

If you think you may have food poisoning:

  • Speak with the supplier of the food - shopkeeper, restaurant, or owner. Explain what the problem is and ask that they note it.
  • Contact Council’s Environmental Health Officer, who has the power to investigate food complaints and take action against those responsible for causing the problem. Your notification may also enable others in the community to be protected from the same problem.
  • If symptoms are severe, or if the person with the food poisoning is very young, very old or immunocompromised, see a doctor as soon as possible. If you suspect a particular food is to blame, keep the food wrapped in the fridge so a sample can be tested. Remember, some types of food poisoning may take several days for symptoms to appear.

Below are the different types of food-borne illness that you may experience. If you believe that you are experiencing one of these illnesses, please see your doctor immediately and contact your local Environmental Health Officer.

Amoebiasis

Amoebiasis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) caused by a tiny parasite that infects the bowel. It is generally associated with people living in areas of poor sanitation and is a common cause of diarrhoea among travellers to developing countries. Amoebiasis occurs when parasites are taken in by the mouth. This is usually by person-to-person spread.

Symptoms are diarrhoea, stomach cramps, fever, and can sometimes cause an abscess in the liver. Symptoms can take a few days, several months or even years before you become ill. To trace the illness it is important to know what you ate, what you drank and where you travelled while you were away.

If you have symptoms of amoebiasis, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care works must not work until the symptoms have stopped. Children should be excluded from school, kindergartens and child care centres until symptoms have stopped.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Campylobacter

Campylobacter infection is a type of gastroenteritis caused by the bacteria Campylobacter. The infection is spread when campylobacter bacteria are ingested via the mouth by inadequate cooking of foods, consuming cross-contaminated foods, and via person-to-person spread such as not washing hands after going to the toilet and then touching surfaces where food is about to be prepared.

Campylobacter infection can affect anyone, however, is more common in children under five years of age and young adults. The symptoms are diarrhoea, fever, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting and they are often more severe in the elderly and people with other medical conditions.

If you have symptoms of campylobacter infection, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care works must not work until the symptoms have stopped. Children should be excluded from school, kindergartens and child care centres until symptoms have stopped.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) caused by a parasite which lives in the bowel. This parasite is found in humans and in wild, pet and farm animals. Cryptosporidiosis occurs when the parasites are taken in by the mouth usually by person-to-person spread.

Symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis are diarrhoea and stomach cramps. The disease may be mild but it can be life threatening to those whose immune systems are already weakened by disease. After infection it usually takes between one and twelve days to become ill and may last for several weeks.

If you have the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis, please visit your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care workers must not work until symptoms have stopped. Children must not attend child care centres, kindergartens or school until symptoms have stopped.

For more information, please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Gastroenteritis

When people get gastro they often assume that it was the last meal they ate that gave them food poisoning. However, this is usually not the case.
The germs that cause gastroenteritis are bacteria, viruses and certain parasites. These germs generally get into the body via your mouth though person-to-person contact, eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, airborne droplets, and handling pets and other animals. Symptoms usually take several days to appear; however, they may occur within hours of the germs entering your body. Symptoms of gastro are diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, fever and headaches.

If you have symptoms of gastro, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care works must not work until the symptoms have stopped. Children should be excluded from school, kindergartens and child care centres until symptoms have stopped.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Giardiasis

Giardiasis is a type of gastroenteritis (gastro) caused by a tiny parasite that lives in the bowel. Anyone can be infected; however, it is more common in infants, young children and adults aged from 20 to 40 years. The Gardia parasites are found in humans and in wild, farm and pet animals. Giardiasis occurs when the parasites are taken in by the mouth usually by person-to-person spread.

Symptoms of Giardiasis are diarrhoea, nausea and stomach cramps; however, in some cases there may be no symptoms at all. After infection it usually takes between seven and ten days to become ill and may last from a few days to weeks.

If you have the symptoms of giardiasis, please visit your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care workers must not work until symptoms have stopped. Children must not attend child care centres, kindergartens or school until symptoms have stopped.

For more information, please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Listeriosis

Listeriosis (otherwise known as Listeria) is an illness usually caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria known as Listeria monocytogenes. This bacterium is commonly isolated from poultry foods and it is a common contaminant of raw foods.

Listeriosis is of particular concern to the very young or very old, people with certain illnesses and pregnant women. Health adults are usually not affected; however, they can still experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. The incubation period is unknown

Ingesting contaminated foods with the bacteria can cause illness. The other mode of transmission is through pregnancy either by mother to foetus via the placenta or at birth.

Ensuring that people in the high risk groups are aware of the foods that are likely to be contaminated and about safe food storage, handling and preparation will reduce the risk of being affected.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Salmonellosis

Salmonellosis is a type of gastroenteritis caused by the bacterium Salmonella.
There are many different types of Salmonella that can cause illness. It can affect anyone; however, it is more common in children under five years of age and young adults. The symptoms are often more severe in the elderly and people with other medical conditions.

Ingestion of the bacteria is due to contaminated food or improperly cooked foods, in particularly:

  • raw and undercooked eggs and egg products
  • raw milk and raw milk products
  • raw red meats
  • unwashed salads, fruits and vegetables

If you have symptoms of salmonellosis, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care works must not work until the symptoms have stopped. Children should be excluded from school, kindergartens and child care centres until symptoms have stopped.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

Shigellosis

Shigellosis is a type of gastroenteritis caused by the bacterium Shigella. Symptoms of shigellosis are diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Shigellosis is mainly transmitted via faecal-oral route; however, infection can still be spread through contaminated food, water, milk or by flies.

To avoid getting shingles, ensure that you practice safe food storage and handling, clean your house regularly, treat water that comes from untreated sources, and wash your hands before and after high risk activities.

If you have symptoms of shigellosis, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care works must not work until the symptoms have stopped. Children should be excluded from school, kindergartens and child care centres until symptoms have stopped.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

VTEC & HUS

Veretoxin Producing E.coli (VTEC) is a type of E.coli that commonly causes gastroenteritis. Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) is a rare condition that affects the kidneys and the bloodstream and can be caused by VTEC. This condition causes abdominal pains, bloody diarrhoea and can lead to kidney problems and anaemia.

VTEC occurs when food and water that are contaminated with E.coli are ingested. Sources of infection are undercooked meat, especially ground meat, cross contamination and person to person spread.

If you have symptoms of gastro, consult your local General Practitioner immediately. Food handlers, child care workers and health care workers diagnosed with VTEC must not work until symptoms have stopped and two consecutive faecal specimens taken at least 24 hours apart, are negative. Children should be excluded from school if required by the Secretary.

For more information please visit the Department of Health website or contact the Environmental Health Team.

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