Friday, April 4, 2008

Food Poisoning Around The World - The Next Leg

This leg of our tour of food poisoning venues takes us back to New Zealand and Vietnam. We'll also make brief stops in Malaysia and a few African countries. All aboard!

The cholera outbreak we visited a couple of stops ago has continued to expand. It has now spread to 10 areas in the north of the country; 85 people have fallen ill so far. Most of the illnesses have been blamed on foods such as raw shrimp paste, seafood salad and puddings.

Seafood paste for sale in Laos, Vietnam's next door neighbor.

Fresh clotted blood in Laos

Bean curd puddings in Maymyo, Myanmar

Cholera is spread through contaminated food and water. There is concern that the outbreak will spill over into the central and southern parts of the country, especially as the temperatures and humidity rise with the onset of summer.

Sixty-eight students from two different schools were examined at district hospitals as a result of separate food poisoning outbreaks last Thursday in the
Serang Pram Utara district of Malaysia. The students, who complained of stomach aches after eating in the cafeterias of the two schools, were treated and released.

New Zealand
There is a Salmonella
Mbandaka outbreak in New Zealand, and no one knows how the microbe is being spread. The outbreak has killed one victim so far, and 28 cases have been confirmed across the country. The Ministry of Health has established that the Salmonella isolates from at least 14 of the victims are genetically identical. An epidemiological investigation is underway to try and find the common link – perhaps a contaminated food.

Cholera outbreaks have claimed the lives of at least 42 people in western Kenya, 4 in Namibia and 8 in Ethiopia. More than 700 cases of cholera have been reported in Kenya. Angola experienced 590 new cases in the week ending March 31st; Namibia has reported 858 new cases in just over a month, and Ethiopians were hit with 97 cases in the two months ending March 15th.

In all four countries, the cholera outbreaks are blamed on breakdowns in sanitation and a lack of availability of safe water for drinking, cooking and washing.

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