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Rise in food poisoning cases spark health alert

Bahrain News
Thu, 12 Jul 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan
1 of 4

PEOPLE have been urged to watch what they eat following a spike in food poisoning cases reported in Bahrain’s hospitals in the past few weeks.

Food-borne diseases tend to increase during the hot summer months, according to doctors.

The cases reported related mainly to outside food, though a few also concerned home-cooked meals.

Food not refrigerated properly or not kept warm enough or left at room temperature for too long were cited as some of the reasons for eatables going stale.

“Rather than heat-related cases, we have had more food-related incidences, with the numbers going up by 10 per cent to 15pc from June until now, compared to the previous months,” KIMS Bahrain Medical Centre internal medicine specialist Dr Ravi Srinivasan told the GDN.

“Most of the cases were related to food poisoning, mainly featuring meals bought from, or eaten at, restaurants,” he said yesterday.

“Sometimes it is the fast cooking-on-demand method where the food is not cooked well, but it could also be the raw materials have not been stored properly and the summer heat could contaminate these.

“At home, refrigerating re-heated food or eating food that has been left out for a long time could lead to problems.”

He said the heat helped bacteria become active faster and this could cause diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting.

“A toxic diarrhoea, which is a very rare condition, can be really complex.”

Dr Srinivasan also said patients were advised to stay hydrated during summer.

“Dehydration is not limited to those who are directly exposed to the sun; it can also happen to those sitting indoors as the heat can drain cells.”

The GDN reported on Monday that medical experts had warned of heat-related conditions as temperatures soar in Bahrain this summer.

The apparent temperature yesterday – how hot it feels to humans – was 51C at 3.30pm, despite the official reading standing at 40C, a result of the combined effects of air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed.

The country has already sweltered through a June heatwave, with the temperature peaking at 45.9C on June 3.

“We have not had many heat-related cases, which are comparatively fewer this year (maybe due to the summer outdoor work ban), but gastroenteritis and food poisoning cases were relatively higher last month,” said American Mission Hospital senior resident Dr Babu Ramachandran.

“These were all mainly families and there were definitely at least 10pc more cases compared to previous months treated by me.

“Reasons are mainly with food decomposition and improper storage, be it with food from outside or home cooked.

“Bacterial activation in food is more in hot environment and the heat that we are going through is adding to the situation.

“Besides, these days we have many viral infections which are also leading to diarrhoea and vomiting.

“All these factors are definitely adding to the higher number of incidents.

“I would recommend people to eat home-made food or from trusted restaurants.”

A senior doctor at the BDF Hospital who requested anonymity also confirmed an increase in diarrhoea and gastroenteritis cases, while the situation at Bahrain’s main hospital was not known.

“The last two days temperature went down slightly, but the heat remains which means we feel the heat,” said Salmaniya Medical Complex Accident and Emergency chief resident Dr P V Cheriyan, who said he was not aware of the number of cases treated at the hospital.

“I think more than heat-related cases like heat exhaustion or stroke, it is food-related cases that are being reported.

“These conditions are usually not serious and can be treated with medication, hydration and rest.

“However, severe food poisoning may require hospitalisation and hydration with intravenous fluids.”

He also noted that barbecues during the summer can also lead to food-borne illnesses, citing the need for proper storage and cooking of raw meat and fish.

Since 2007, Bahrain bans all outdoor work between midday and 4pm every July and August to protect workers from scorching summer temperatures.

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