Updated Friday 27 June 2014, 1.30pm
Heartlands Hospital is raising awareness with visitors of the importance of correct hand washing and advising them not to come into hospital if they have had diarrhoea and/or vomiting during the previous 48 hours.
Since 5 June 2014, 22 patients and six staff members have tested positive for the bacteria; with eight areas within the Hospital wards affected. Nine patients remain in hospital and all are responding to treatment. One ward (Beech ward) remains closed to visitors and new admissions.
Stringent food and water testing has not highlighted any signs of the Salmonella bacteria in hospital food or water. Deep cleaning of all areas will continue until patients are no longer testing positive for the bacteria. However, external microbiological experts are concerned that this is the start of a potential community outbreak.
Dr Andrew Catto, medical director, said: “Any infection in someone who is already ill can be very serious and we are taking every precaution possible to protect our patients and staff. We are concerned by the spread and number of patients who have tested positive, as this is unusual.
“Not all community Salmonella cases get reported as many people recover quickly and do not feel the need to go to see their GP. Usually, we see between two and four cases across the West Midlands reported monthly and for a hospital to see this number in such a short space of time requires expert investigation. This is why we are working closely with environmental health experts to continually carry out testing and cleaning.
“The key to preventing Salmonella passing from one person to another is correct hand washing and I am asking all visitors to ensure that they wash their hands on entry to any ward area and wash them on exit. If you have had diarrhoea and/or vomiting within the last 48 hours, please do not visit the hospital. If you have been in contact with someone who has had diarrhoea and/or vomiting within the last 48 hours please stay away. Also, I am asking visitors, as a precaution, not to bring food in for their relatives to those in affected areas. We are continuing to test the food and the environment as a precautionary measure. We are doing everything possible for our patients, with clinical teams caring for and treating patients who are affected, and working with none affected patients to ensure their continued safety.”
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Notes to editors:
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella bacteria cause food poisoning. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever. Most people recover without treatment, but if you become seriously ill you may need hospital care because the dehydration (fluid loss) caused by the illness can be life-threatening.
Who gets Salmonella?
Anyone can get Salmonella, but young children, the elderly and people who have immune systems that are not working properly (including people with cancer, AIDS or alcoholism) have a greater risk of becoming severely ill.
How do you get infected with Salmonella?
You usually get Salmonella by eating contaminated food. Salmonella bacteria live in the gut of many farm animals and can affect meat, eggs, poultry, and milk. Other foods like green vegetables, fruit and shellfish can become contaminated through contact with manure in the soil or sewage in the water.
Contamination is also possible if raw and cooked foods are stored together. Most tortoises and terrapins and other pet reptiles can also carry Salmonella. Dogs, cats, and rodents can occasionally become infected.
It is impossible to tell from its appearance whether food is contaminated with Salmonella. It will look, smell and taste normal.
Salmonella can be spread from person to person by poor hygiene, by failing to wash your hands properly after going to the toilet, or after handling contaminated food.
How can you avoid getting infected with Salmonella?
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water:
- before preparing and eating food;
- after handling raw food;
- after going to the toilet or changing a baby’s nappy;
- after contact with pets and other animals, especially reptiles and amphibians; and
- after working in the garden.
- Keep cooked food away from raw food.
- Store raw foods below cooked or ready-to-eat foods in the fridge to prevent contamination.
- Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.
- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, so that it is piping hot.
- Keep all kitchen surfaces and equipment including knives, chopping boards and dish cloths clean.
- Do not drink untreated water from lakes, rivers or streams.
- Do not keep reptiles or amphibians in households where there is a child under 5 year of age, or someone with a weakened immune system.
If someone has Salmonella, wash all dirty clothes, bedding and towels in the washing machine on the hottest cycle possible. Clean toilet seats, toilet bowls, flush handles, taps and wash hand basins after use with detergent and hot water, followed by a household disinfectant.
What are the symptoms of Salmonella and how long do they last?
Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever. On average, it takes from 12 to 72 hours for the symptoms to develop after swallowing an infectious dose of salmonella. Symptoms usually last for four to seven days and clear up without treatment. You may need treatment if you become dehydrated.
How do you treat Salmonella?
It is important to drink plenty of fluids as diarrhoea or vomiting can lead to dehydration and you can lose important sugars and minerals from your body. Your doctor may recommend a re-hydration solution, available from your pharmacist.
If you feel sick, try taking small sips of fluid, frequently.
Avoid tea, coffee, carbonated drinks or alcohol. Always dilute sugary drinks even if you would not normally dilute them. A simple painkiller like paracetamol can help combat any pain. Sometimes severe cases are treated with antibiotics. If you are given antibiotics it is essential that you complete the course as prescribed.
Do you need to stay off work or school?
Yes. While you are ill and have symptoms you are infectious. Children and adults should stay away from nursery, school or work for 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.
You should tell your employer you have had salmonella if you work with vulnerable groups such as the elderly, the young, those in poor health, or if you handle food.
Public Health England (PHE) and Salmonella
PHE provides advice on controlling outbreaks. They look for the source of the infection; for example the food that is responsible, so that they can help to prevent other people from becoming infected. The team also monitor outbreaks of Salmonella and look for any patterns or trends which show possible connections between the people who are affected.