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UK Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Duck Eggs

Duck eggs are suspected for a spike in Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 cases in the United Kingdom that may be responsible for one death, the country’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) says.

FSA issued a warning to consumers about the importance of practicing good hygiene when cooking and consuming duck eggs after the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced it was investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8.

HPA said there have been 63 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium DT8 infection reported in the UK so far this year.   With three months of this year to go, that’s already more DT8 cases than the 34 recorded in 2008 and 47 in 2009.

Two of this year’s victims were hospitalized, and it’s possible one death is directly related to the Salmonella infection.

The HPA/FSA investigation has linked eating duck eggs to the outbreak.

In a statement, FSA said duck eggs might occasionally be contaminated with Salmonella both on their shells, or more rarely, internally.  FSA gave this advice to consumers:

  • Duck eggs should be cooked thoroughly until both the white and yolk are solid. If you are cooking a dish containing duck eggs, make sure you cook it until the food is steaming hot all the way through. 

  • Good hygiene practices should be followed when handling and storing all eggs, such as washing hands, utensils and preparation surfaces after handling or using eggs.

In its statement, HPA said DT8 victims are suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.  Cases are mainly adults with an average age of 46 years, and most are men (61 percent).  Cases have been referred from Northern Ireland and most regions in England, with predominance in the Southeast and Northwest. 

  

 “As soon as the Agency first noticed an increase in cases we started detailed investigations using food questionnaires and interviewing cases to find the common cause of illness in these people and to identify the source of the outbreak,” said Dr. Dilys Morgan, HPA’s lead investigator.

“It became clear from our investigations that the increase was related to the consumption of duck products, mainly eggs. It is important that consumers and caterers are aware that all eggs, including duck eggs, may occasionally be contaminated with Salmonella and follow advice provided by the Food Standards Agency in order to reduce the risk of infection.”

HPA also provided this explanation of how it proceeds in an outbreak of Salmonella:

“If there is an outbreak then the first evidence will be an increase in the number of samples submitted to the Reference Laboratory for confirmation and typing

“The HPA would then have to establish whether this was an outbreak or whether there could be any other explanations for the increase in cases. 

“For example

  • Are the cases coming from abroad?

  • Have the samples been misclassified in the lab?

  • Is there a lab backlog of samples so it appears there is a peak when there is not?

“If it still appears there is an outbreak then an Outbreak Control Team is established. Epidemiologists using structured questionnaires interview patients. These would include descriptive data including personal details of the patients, clinical histories, household details, what food they had eaten and animals they had come into contact with in the seven days before becoming ill and where it was bought, their food preferences and travel histories. 

“Based on the evidence from the questionnaires and the telephone interviews if it appears the outbreak is foodborne then an Outbreak Control Team is established.  The HPA then work with other organizations to prevent other people becoming unwell, including the Food Standards Agency and Environmental Health.” 

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