Mys­tery out­break of salmonel­losis puts 30 in hos­pi­tal

● Eggs sus­pected of be­ing the cul­prits as many fall ill

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News - Wendy Knowler

Sal­monella bac­te­ria‚ most likely from con­tam­i­nated eggs‚ has put at least 30 peo­ple in the greater Dur­ban area in hos­pi­tal‚ and has made many more ill.

So­cial me­dia re­ports posted by peo­ple who’d con­tracted salmonel­losis af­ter eat­ing at the up­mar­ket Old Town Italy restau­rant in Umh­langa – mostly meals in­clud­ing hol­landaise sauce – raised the alarm‚ but the out­break of the past few weeks goes far be­yond one restau­rant.

Four chil­dren at­tend­ing a Cowies Hill creche were con­firmed by doc­tors to have salmonel­losis; seven peo­ple who at­tended a pri­vate lunch ended up in Hill­crest Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal for al­most a week af­ter eat­ing a dessert made with egg; a Florida Road restau­rant closed for two days af­ter its pa­trons re­ported fall­ing ill and many phar­ma­cies in the greater Dur­ban area have re­ported a sud­den spike in the de­mand for di­ar­rhoea med­i­ca­tion.

Paulo Franco said his 23year-old son had been in Umh­langa Hos­pi­tal since Mon­day‚ with per­sis­tent chronic di­ar­rhoea af­ter eat­ing poached eggs with hol­landaise sauce at Old Town Italy on Sun­day morn­ing.

“I in­formed the restau­rant pri­vately that Sal­monella had been con­firmed as the cause‚ and they as­sured me that they’d han­dled the prob­lem‚ but hos­pi­tal staff told us that three more peo­ple who’d eaten at Old Town Italy were ad­mit­ted on Wed­nes­day night.

“So why is the restau­rant still open?”

The restau­rant posted a re­sponse on its Face­book page on Thurs­day evening: “We have been in per­sonal con­tact with all fam­i­lies and the health depart­ment to get to the bot­tom of the is­sue.”

They said they had stopped pro­duc­ing hol­landaise sauce in­house and were run­ning tests.

Op­er­a­tions man­ager Clif­ford Bar­ratt said it took any­thing from six to 72 hours for some­one to fall ill af­ter eat­ing food con­tam­i­nated with sal­monella.

But Colin Steen­huisen of the SA Poul­try As­so­ci­a­tion’s egg board said tests had found no sal­monella bac­te­ria in the eggs of the com­pany which sup­plied Old Town Italy.

“So in this case at least‚ eggs were not the source‚” he said.

The out­break is not con­fined to that one restau­rant.

The owner of a restau­rant in Florida Road‚ who asked not to be named‚ said she had closed the restau­rant for two days last week “to do a deep clean and dis­in­fec­tion” af­ter four pa­trons who’d eaten there fell ill‚ along with two staff mem­bers.

And two week­ends ago‚ 15 peo­ple out of 20 who at­tended a potjie com­pe­ti­tion at a pri­vate home near Hill­crest fell se­verely ill. Seven of them – in­clud­ing three chil­dren un­der 10 – were treated at Hill­crest Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal for five to six days. The hos­pi­tal con­firmed the bac­te­ria was sal­monella from eggs.

Four chil­dren who at­tend Huggy Bear creche in Cowies Hill were also con­firmed to have con­tracted salmonel­losis‚ some of them be­ing treated in the same ward as those from the potjie party.

Creche owner Anne Wester­meyer‚ who closed the creche for a few days‚ said the source was a mys­tery as she did not serve eggs to the chil­dren.

A Hill­crest phar­ma­cist‚ who asked not to be named‚ sus­pected a food-borne dis­ease out­break and con­tacted sev­eral doc­tors in the area‚ who con­firmed it.

Spec­u­la­tion about which egg sup­plier is the source of the out­break is rife.

One egg sup­plier said a KwaZulu-Natal-based com­pany had im­ported mil­lions of dozen-pack eggs from Brazil, which had led to a flood of cheap eggs on the mar­ket.

eThekwini mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s en­vi­ron­men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers have been in­volved in all the cases‚ ac­cord­ing to those in­volved.

TimesLIVE ap­proached both the mu­nic­i­pal and pro­vin­cial health de­part­ments for a re­sponse‚ which is still pend­ing.

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