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Ribble Valley Borough Council

Infectious Diseases

Infectious Diseases

The National Picture

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recognised that the incidence of Infectious Intestinal Disease (IID) or food poisoning is continuing to increase and is of major importance as a public health issue.

Over the past few years there have been in excess of 70,000 confirmed cases of IID each year. As a result the FSA has set a target to reduce the present figures by 20% by April 2006.

It is commonly believed that food poisoning is associated with the consumption of food outside the home. It is our experience that this is rarely the case and the majority of incidents occur within the home environment.

As part of this national initiative we recognise the importance of playing our part within the local community. We will raise the awareness and give advice as to measures which need to be observed to minimise the risk of food poisoning and in the event of it occuring to prevent it's transmission.

Why do we investigate reported cases of Food Poisoning?

Environmental Health Officers have a duty to investigate confirmed cases of food poisoning and cases of infectious gastroenteritis within the local community. We are particularly interested in disease causing organisms commonly associated with and spread through food and water. Officers liaise closely with the Director of Public Health of the Hyndburn & Ribble Valley Primary Care Trust ( PCT ) and the Consultant in Health Protection of the local Health Protection Agency Unit ( HPA ). We normally investigate on average about 100 confirmed cases every year.

When patients present themselves to their doctor with a gastroenteric infection, faecal samples are usually requested and are submitted for analysis to the local hospital microbiology laboratories. These samples are screened for an extensive range of pathogenic organisms and if any of these are confirmed to be present, the matter is reported simultaneously to the patients doctor and also to the local environmental health department for further investigation.

Environmental health investigate the cases with a view to identifying;

  • potential local sources of infection; and
  • to offer advice as to prevent further spread of infection within the family & to the community

This is necessary to identify and take early action in the event of a food poisoning outbreak to minimise the risk and spread of further infection.

How does the process work?

Following notification, the investigating officer will visit the address of the confirmed case as quickly as possible ( normally within 24 hours). An intervew is then carried out based on questions contained within an agreed standard proforma used throughout East Lancashire. Depending upon the organism, a range of questions willl be asked about food consumed, contact with animals and places visited during the past few days ( normally upto a weeks history may be required ).

Advice and advisory leaflets will also normally be given as to how to prevent further spread within the family. Also, certain types of 'high risk' people may be excluded from work and contact with other people eg food handlers, nurses, children under 5. Advice will be given as appropriate and further faecal samples may be required from cases and immediate contacts and before a return to work is possible.

For further information or advice please contact 01200 414464 or email environmental.health@ribblevalley.gov.uk