Public Health England (PHE) is considering a possible single source for 156 outbreaks of food poisoning across Hampshire, London, Cheshire and the West Midlands, because they all involve similar strains of Salmonella enteritidis (14b).
Genetic typing methods have also identified cases involving closely related strains in Austria and France. Salmonella enteritidis causes gastrointestinal illness and is often associated with poultry or eggs, according to PHE.
‘More conclusive evidence shortly’
Dr Paul Cleary, a consultant epidemiologist leading the PHE investigation, said: “We are working with our colleagues across PHE, at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), in local authorities and with other public health organisations in Europe to investigate the cause of this outbreak. We are making good progress and hope to have more conclusive evidence shortly.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and if there is any further public health action necessary then we will ensure that this takes place.”
Some food and environmental samples from catering outlets have tested positive for salmonella with the same genetic profile as seen in the outbreak cases.
Symptoms of Salmonella enteritidis include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever. Symptoms are self-limiting and most people recover without treatment although it is important to remain hydrated.
An FSA spokeswoman said: “The FSA is working with PHE, local authorities, the European Commission and other member states to try to establish the source of this outbreak. We are also asking all UK local authorities to be vigilant with any cases of illness that appear in their areas and report them immediately to us.”
Two oriental takeaways have been linked to 32 out of 55 cases in Hampshire have been linked to a single oriental restaurant and 31 out of 33 cases in Merseyside have been linked to an oriental takeaway.
In London, 25 cases have been recorded, although little is so far known of the food histories of those taken sick.
In the West Midlands, 43 cases have been recorded, of which 34 have been connected with the Birmingham Heartlands Hospital outbreak.
In France, 49 people have been affected so far and in Austria, no figures are yet available.
There has been no increase in cases or outbreaks of Salmonella enteritidis 14b in Scotland or Wales.