Authorities in Singapore are investigating two outbreaks that have sickened almost 40 people.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Food Agency (SFA) are looking into the two incidents of gastroenteritis on Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, 2019, affecting 39 people who ate food prepared at Mum’s Kitchen Catering Pte Ltd and Cherish Delights Pte Ltd.

Three people were hospitalized but two of them have been discharged. The last person is in a stable condition. The agent and food responsible for illnesses are not yet known.

SFA suspended the license of Mum’s Kitchen Catering Pte on Sept. 10 and Cherish Delights Pte the day after until further notice. The companies must clean and sanitize the sites, including equipment and utensils. They are both based at the same address.

All food handlers working at these premises must re-attend and pass a basic food hygiene course before they can resume such work. The appointed food hygiene officer(s) at the companies are also required to re-attend and pass a food hygiene officer course before they can resume work.

In a statement on the temporary suspension, Mum’s Kitchen Catering Pte said it was taking the issue seriously.

“We are reviewing the whole supply chain and practices. We have also engaged external food consultants to audit the entire supply chain and food processes. We are confident that we will be back soon to serve you and we look forward to carrying out our operating philosophy which is to serve nutritious and hygienic meals to all our customers.”

Gastro outbreaks double

Meanwhile, New South Wales Health in Australia has advised young children should be kept at home if they are sick after a rise in viral gastro cases.

NSW Health’s acting manager of Enteric and Zoonotic Diseases, Keira Glasgow, said there has been an increase in gastroenteritis outbreaks at childcare centers across the state and a lot of children aged under 5 seeking treatment at emergency departments.

“Nearly 100 childcare centers reported outbreaks of gastro in August, double the average for this time of year, and at least 820 children and 165 staff have fallen ill. The number of children seeking treatment for the highly-contagious infection at emergency departments has also risen above usual levels, with 609 children seeking medical attention in the last week,” she said.

Gastro is often spread by direct contact with an infected person. Viral gastroenteritis is usually caused by norovirus or rotavirus. It spreads easily between people if they haven’t washed their hands after using the toilet or before handling food.

“The best defense is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds before handling and eating food, and always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing nappies or assisting someone who has diarrhea or vomiting. Infants or children in childcare or school who develop vomiting or diarrhea should stay at home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped,” said Glasgow.

People whose job involves handling food or looking after children, the elderly or patients, should not return to work until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped to avoid the spread of infection. Anyone else should stay home for at least 24 hours.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, headache and muscle aches. They can take up to three days to develop and usually last between one or two days.

The main treatment for viral gastroenteritis is to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Most people recover without complications, however, it can be serious for infants, those with suppressed immune systems and the elderly.

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