Salmonella Outbreak Could Be Caused by Watermelons

You may indulge in exciting fruits like watermelons for a bit of variety during your weight loss or wellness regime, but an outbreak of a strain of Salmonella has hinted that eating watermelons had led to diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and, in one case, death.


The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has begun investigating an outbreak of a strain of Salmonella Newport among 34 people in the UK, though cases of the infection have also been reported in Ireland and Germany.


Aside from the symptoms listed above that Salmonella Newport brings, complications can include blood poisoning, or septicaemia, or a localised infection such as septic arthritis. However, some people only need a course of antibiotics and most find that the case resolves itself within a week.


According to the HPA, the person who died from Salmonella Newport had pre-existing wellbeing problems, and serious underlying health complications, but the general age-range of infection was 6 months to 85 years. The East of England has seen the greatest amount of outbreaks, and 70% of all cases occurred in women. There are 30 cases overall in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as 4 cases confirmed in Scotland, 5 in Ireland and 15 in Germany.


So where do watermelons come into it? The HPA conducted a local food survey in November 2011, and identified Salmonella Newport from a ready-to-eat sliced watermelon. The sample of watermelon taken during the survey exhibited the same strain of Salmonella Newport that was subsequently identified in the number of people who later became unwell.


There are 2 ways this could have occurred, according to experts: The surface of the melons could have been contaminated, or the melons could have been stored or washed in contaminated water. Therefore, Alison Gleadle, director of food safety at the Food Standards Agency, advised in a statement that you should ‘wash fruits and vegetables before consumption to reduce the risk of possible illness’.


However, you should note that although the HPA says that watermelon is the most likely cause of the outbreak, head of the gastrointestinal diseases department at the HPA, Dr Bob Adak, says ‘it’s too soon to say with certainty what the likely cause of infection is’.

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