Bahrain hospitals on high E.coli alert
Manama , June 7, 2011
Medical staff at Bahrain's public and private hospitals have been put on high alert following the world's largest E.coli outbreak which has killed 22 people.
Imports of fresh vegetables from Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark have already been banned as a result of the epidemic that has left another 2,000 ill.
A team of Health Ministry inspectors has been formed to monitor entry points into the country to check vegetable imports from European countries.
It has also issued a circular advising all medical workers to report any suspected E.coli cases.
"We are in continuous communications with international organisations, particularly the World Health Organisation (WHO), to get the latest update about the disease and the recommendations," said Health Ministry public health director Dr Khariya Moosa.
"Staff from the Public Health directorate and food control section are responsible for inspections at the ports of entries. This is in line with implementation of a ministerial order by the Industry and Commerce Ministry."
Dr Moosa said a contingency plan was in place in case of an E.coli outbreak, which has affected bell peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and bean sprouts.
"The treatment includes rehydration solutions, blood transfusion and dialysis, all these are available so activation of emergency response team will be done if an outbreak occurs," she said.
Health inspectors have already been instructed by the ministry to take random samples of vegetables from the market.
Dr Moosa said random samples would be tested in Public Health Laboratory for possible E.coli strain.
A food complaint hotline set up by the ministry (39427743) had received a steady stream of calls.
"We did receive calls and reassured them about steps taken by the Health Ministry such as collecting random sampling for testing and the decision banning vegetable imports by the Industry and Commerce ministry," said Dr Moosa.
In the coming weeks, the ministry plans to launch an audio-visual campaign for the media to create awareness about the infection and prevention measures.
The Consumer Protection Directorate has urged people to take extra caution when storing, preparing and cooking food.
Washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection and should be done for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food.
Cooking utensils and kitchen surfaces should also be sterilised and food stored under 4C.
Consumers are encouraged to use containers that are large enough to prevent mixing and contact between raw food.
Cooking should be done at the appropriate temperatures and all meats must be cooked thoroughly.
Humans acquire the infection by consuming contaminated food or water.
Following an incubation period of about three to four days, a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms appear, ranging from mild to severe bloody diarrhoea, mostly without fever. The Industry and Commerce Ministry earlier said the ban would not affect the local market. – TradeArabia News Service
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