Sunday, February 5, 2012

Salmonella outbreak linked to watermelons

A salmonella outbreak may have been caused by contaminated watermelons, health experts said.

Thirty five people in the UK have fallen ill with an infection caused by the same strain of Salmonella Newport since the start of December 2011, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

The people affected in the outbreak ranged in age from six months to 85 years. One person has died, although they had serious underlying health complications, the HPA said.

Other cases by the same strain of bacterium have also been confirmed in Ireland and Germany.

Infection with Salmonella Newport causes illness similar to other forms of Salmonella infection, with symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.

Seventy per cent of cases were women, with the East of England registering the highest number of cases.

Dr Bob Adak, head of the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, said: "Although it’s too soon to say with certainty what the likely cause of infection is, early indications suggest that a number of people became unwell after eating watermelon.

"This has also been noted in the cases in Scotland and Germany, although further investigation is ongoing.

"It is always advisable to wash fruits and vegetables – including watermelon – before consumption to reduce the risk of possible illness."

Salmonella Newport has been found in many different foods in previous UK outbreaks. The largest one was in 2004 and was associated with the consumption of lettuce in restaurants and takeaways.


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