Salmonella in chicken has been linked to almost 70 illnesses in the Czech Republic.

Health authorities in the city of Zlin reported the outbreak in the middle of March at Tomáše Bati Regional Hospital.

A total of 68 people, of whom 38 were patients and 30 staff, were found to be connected with the salmonellosis outbreak. Four people, one staff member, and three other patients, were hospitalized in the town of Uherské Hradiště.

A common vehicle of infection was a chicken and rice dish served for lunch on March 14. An epidemiological survey found that all patients consumed this lunch. The alarm was raised on March 15 by the hospital in a message to health authorities.

The next day, Salmonella enteritidis was detected in fecal samples. Samples of raw materials and swabs from the kitchen and storage areas were taken. Sanitation and disinfection of all kitchen and storage areas were ordered. The chicken used in the meals was also destroyed.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection usually appear 12 to 72 hours after infection and include fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most people recover without treatment.

The laboratory analysis at the Institute of Public Health in Ostrava and in the State Veterinary Institute in Olomouc did not confirm Salmonella in any sample of frozen chicken available during the investigation. Clinical material from patients was sent to the lab of the Veterinary Research Institute in Brno.

In an updated statement concluding the investigation, health authorities in Zlin reported that Salmonella enteritidis, identical to the strain grown from clinical cases, was confirmed in a chicken and rice sample.

Tomáše Bati Regional Hospital has been sent a final report on results of the investigation and can object to the findings. After this, possible financial sanction will be considered.

In a statement, officials from the hospital said it had introduced strict measures for food after the Salmonella infection including strengthening controls on the defrosting and cooking of meat so procedures are monitored consistently.

Officials said while the hospital cannot influence the incidence of Salmonella in raw materials supplied to it, they want to focus consistently on the correct procedures for processing.

It is also considering buying cameras and putting them in areas where hospital food is being prepared so it can detect a human error in time and eliminate it in the future.

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