Food poisoning is an acute gastroenteritis caused by the consumption of a food material or a drink which contains pathogenic micro organisms, their toxins, or poisonous chemicals. Food poisoning is common in hostels, hotels, communal feedings, and festival seasons. A group of people will be affected with same type of symptoms, and they give a history of consumption of a common food just a few hours earlier.
Types of food poisoning are:
- Bacterial food poisoning: Here the micro organisms called bacteria are responsible.The food material may contain the pathogenic bacteria or their toxin, and will be ingested along with the food.
- Non bacterial food poisoning: Due to the presence of toxic chemicals like fertilizers, insecticides, heavy metals and etc.
Since bacterial food poisoning is most common that is what I'll discuss here.
All bacteria are not harmful. There are some pathogenic bacteria which secrete toxins and cause clinical manifestations. These organisms enter the human body through food articles or drinks. Food poisoning occurs:
- When there is a presence of bacteria in water.
- The raw materials for the food may contain toxins.
- Premises where the food is prepared may contain micro organisms or toxins.
- Food handlers may have some infectious diseases.
- Some animals like dogs or rats may contaminate the food.
- If prepared food is kept at room temperature for a long time and heated again, there's a chance for food poisoning.
Then we've all heard horror stories of what people who prepare your food can do to it. That is why it's good to be aware of how clean the places appear to be where you eat.
Some common bacterial food poisonings are:
- Salmonella food poisoning. There are actually three different varieties of salmonella bacteria, salmonella typhimurium, salmonella cholera suis, salmonella enteritis. These bacteria are present in milk, milk products and eggs. Symptoms of this food poisoning include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Fever is also common.
- Botulism. This is the dangerous type of food poisoning caused by clostridium botulinum. The spores of these organisms are seen in the soil and enters the human body through pickles and canned fish, etc. Compared to other food poisonings, here vomiting and diarrhoea are rare. Mainly the nervous system is affected.The symptoms start with double vision, numbness with weakness. Later there will be paralysis with cardiac and respiratory failure ending in death.
- Staphylococcal food poisoning. It is caused by staphylococcus aureus. These organisms usually cause skin troubles like boils and eruptions. It causes mastitis in the cow. Through milk and milk products it enters the body and causes gastroenteritis. There will be vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhoea.
- Closteridium food poisoning. This is caused by closteridium perfringens. They are present in stool, soil and water. They enter the body through meat, meat dishes, and eggs. If food articles are cooked and kept at room temperature for a long time and heated again before eating, this kind of food poisoning can be the result. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal cramps.
- Bacillus cereus. The spores of these organisms can survive cooking and cause gastroenteritis. Diarrhoea and vomiting is common in this infection.
So how to do you investigate food poisoning? First, examine each and every person affected. Were more in your party sick besides you? Get a water sample and have it tested. Are the kitchen, store room and food samples clean and cared for properly? The cook and food handlers should be questioned and examined to see if they are passing along illnesses to you. When you see a doctor they will take samples of vomit and stool of all victims to be tested for identifying the bacteria.
How can you prevent food poisoning? The truth is you can't always, especially when you're on vacation, but here are a few tips.
- Only purified water should be used.
- Hygiene should be maintained by all persons keeping contact with food.
- Workers should use masks, cap and gloves during cooking and serving.
- Sick individuals should not come in contact with food materials.
- Kitchen and premises should be neat and clean.
- Vessels should be washed with soap and hot water.
- Should not keep the prepared food for a long time at room temperature.
- All food materials should be kept in closed containers.
- Animals like dogs, cats, rats, etc. should not come in contact with food materials.
- Vegetables should be washed before cooking.
- Meat should be fresh and should be purchased from a recognised slaughter house.
These are great tips if you are at home, but when you're out they are not always very practical. One of the main things for protecting yourself is to make sure what you eat is fully cooked. We all remember the outbreaks of food poisoning from hamburger and poultry not being cooked enough. Visiting the local hospital for any reason while on vacation usually isn't a pleasant experience.