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Food Poisoning and Infectious Disease

Information

The Food Safety Team also investigate a number of communicable diseases including Salmonella and E-Coli. This page includes some background information and what to do if you think you've eaten something that doesn't agree with you.

Food poisoning is a term used to cover an unpleasant range of illnesses which can be caused by bacteria, viruses, chemicals, metals and poisonous plants.

Notifiable Diseases

Notifiable diseases are a short list of illnesses which are closely monitored and investigated. Local Authorities are responsible for the investigation of some of them, mostly covering food poisoning and other illnesses with public health implications, such as tuberculosis and legionella.

What does the Food Team do?

A significant proportion of the Food Team's work is concerned with investigating food poisoning, whether one off (sporadic) cases or outbreaks of illness. The Food Team also investigate outbreaks at institutions such as schools, nursing homes and nurseries.

Who does the Food Team work with?

Illnesses don't respect County Council boundaries. The team works with colleagues at neighbouring Authorities as well as the Health Protection Agency and Local Health Board.

Investigating cases

Most cases are reported to the Department by your GP. A member of the Food Team will then try to contact you to discuss where and what you have eaten over the 3 days prior to you feeling ill, as well as taking details of your symptoms. If it is possible to link your illness with another case in the area, an officer will visit suspect premises. However, with only 1 case it is hard to prove any particular premises to be at fault, and a significant number of food poisonings are thought to occur in the home.

With outbreaks, the evidence collected gives a much better chance of identifying the source of the infection. In these cases steps will be taken to limit the outbreak first, and then consider what action might be appropriate.

With institutional outbreaks, the Team works together to limit the spread of infection. In schools and nurseries this means making sure no children attend who are still suffering from symptoms, and making sure nursing and care homes have appropriate exclusion policies in place to reduce the chance of infection spreading. Institutions should have their own outbreak control plan to use in the case of infection. In these sorts of premises, 2 or more cases of illness qualifies as an outbreak, although the team will be happy to discuss any questions you may have.

Exclusions

Anyone with diarrhoea and vomiting must stay off work until they have been symptom free for at least 48 hours.

This is particularly important if you are a food handler or work with young children or elderly people. You should notify your employer about your illness.

It is always advisable to visit your GP and submit a faecal specimen to try to establish what type of food poisoning you may have had.

Fact Sheets

The team have produced a number of factsheets that are available for download which provide further information on the most common infectious diseases.

Campylobacter Leaflet

Crypto Leaflet

Ecoli Leaflet

Giardia Leaflet

Hep A Leaflet

Salmonella Leaflet

Viral GE Leaflet