A spike in food poisoning cases in an Australian state has prompted doctors to warn people about safe food preparation.

House Call Doctor responded to around 20 cases of food poisoning in the space of a week in Queensland, according to local media. The team of medical practitioners provide home and after hours doctor services across the region.

The state is in the middle of a heatwave and it is Australia’s summer. A heatwave is any long period of very hot weather, usually ranging from 37 degrees Celsius to 42 degrees Celsius.

Statistics from Queensland Health covering Jan. 1 through 20 this year show Campylobacter has increased but Salmonella decreased compared to the same period last year. There are no significant increases versus the same time in previous years and some diseases are tracking down year on year, according to the agency.

Dr. Ryan Harvey, from House Call Doctor, said food poisoning and illnesses such as Salmonella can be dangerous.

“Keeping food at regulated temperatures is very important to help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. Make sure meats aren’t left on the bench to defrost, cold foods including eggs are kept in the fridge, and meats are cooked through before you eat them. Don’t leave snacks like cheeses or dips out for too long in this heat either,” he said.

Harvey said symptoms of food poisoning are varied.

“Common symptoms include whole-body chills, light-headedness, vomiting, headache, fatigue and dehydration. Most cases of food poisoning will pass with time but there are risks associated with it, in particular dehydration. Make sure you, or your loved one, is kept hydrated by giving them water and hydrolytes. If symptoms persist, make sure you see a GP or healthcare professional,” he said.

FSIC on Listeria
Meanwhile, the Food Safety Information Council has given back to work and school food safety tips with a focus on the risk of potentially deadly Listeria infection.

The council is a charity that shares consumer-targeted food safety information. It estimates that 4.1 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year result in 31,920 hospitalizations and 86 deaths.

Rachelle Williams, council chair, said Omnipoll research showed a third of people at risk of Listeria, or living with someone at risk, had never heard of the infection and two in ten of them couldn’t name foods they needed to avoid or cook to prevent infection.

“One of the most common questions we are asked is what are safer lunchtime alternatives for people at risk of Listeria. Especially as many lunchtime favourites such as sushi, sliced deli meats, cold chicken, soft cheeses, cut fruit, and pre-prepared salads are high risk foods for Listeria infection,” she said.

People at risk include pregnant women, the immuno-compromised and the elderly.

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