We investigate infectious diseases to try to prevent the spread of illness within the community and establish possible causes. Advice is also given to the patient on how to prevent the spread of disease within the home.
Food and water
The Food, Health and safety Team respond to reports of food and water - drinking and recreational - related illnesses and work with Local Health Authorities to investigate from where they may have originated and how best to prevent them happening in the future.
The food and water that people consume has a direct impact on their health. Sources of ill health from food and water can come from many different sources including poor hygiene standards, microbiological and chemical contamination, and excessive use of additives, allergies and poor nutritional content.
What are the most common foodborne diseases?
The most commonly recognized foodborne infections are:
3. E. coli O157:H7
4. Calicivirus, or Norwalk-like virus
Some common diseases are occasionally foodborne, even though they are usually transmitted by other routes. These include infections caused by Shigella, hepatitis A, and the parasites Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidia.
Some foodborne diseases are caused by the presence of a toxin in the food that was produced by a microbe in the food. For example, the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can grow in some foods and produce a toxin that causes intense vomiting. The rare but deadly disease botulism occurs when the bacterium Clostridium botulinum grows and produces a powerful paralytic toxin in foods. These toxins can produce illness even if the microbes that produced them are no longer there.
Other toxins and poisonous chemicals can cause foodborne illness. People can become ill if a pesticide is inadvertently added to a food, or if naturally poisonous substances are used to prepare a meal, eg: mushrooms.
How to avoid getting ill abroad
- Plan ahead by exercising, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and having plenty of sleep in the weeks before travelling to boost your immune system.
Don't use dirty swimming pools. Crytosporidiosis is a waterborne infection contracted from infected swimming pools. The symptoms are very similar to food poisoning.
Take a probiotic for a few weeks beforehand, to line the stomach with 'friendly' bacteria. These bacterial cultures help to aid digestion, bolster the immune system and battle for space with 'bad' bacteria, such as those that cause food poisoning.
Don't drink tap water. Drink bottled water, as long as it's sealed when you get it. Brush your teeth with it, too. Other safe beverages include name-brand drinks that come in sealed cans or bottles, such as carbonated mineral water and soft drinks and, if you don't overdo it, beer or wine. If you know the water in your cup has been boiled well, coffee or tea should be fine. If the outside of the can or bottle is wet, wipe the surface dry, just in case the source of that moisture is untreated water.
Don't use ice cubes, unless used with water that has been boiled first
Don't eat raw foods. They might make you sick, either because the location where they were grown or caught was contaminated, or because water used to grow, wash or prepare them is unsafe.
Don't eat raw or under-cooked Shellfish or meat
Don't eat salads, uncooked vegetables, and un-pasteurized milk products, including cheese
Vegetables should be hot and make sure they haven't been sitting out all day in the sun
Peel fresh fruit yourself, to be sure the part you'll eat wasn't contaminated after peeling
Don't buy food from street vendors. You don't know where it's been