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Festivities are here: Watch out for food poisoning

By David Mwitari | Updated Wed, December 28th 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3

It is this time of year when people travel from one place to the next, attend functions and parties whose main agenda is food.

As the festivities take on full steam and the indulging continues, food poisoning becomes a very real possibility and with it comes the associated stomach discomfort.

Dr Patrick Munene of Megalife Hospital, Ruai, however, cautions against assuming that all stomach discomfort is foot poisoning. He says people should not be so quick to self medicate but should instead opt for professional advise.

“Many people have a misconception of this condition that is predominantly brought on as a result of eating contaminated, spoiled, or toxic food,” he said.

According to Dr Munene, while there are various bacteria associated with food poisoning, it is mainly caused by the Salmonella bacteria. He says these pathogens can be found on almost all foods that humans eat and are usually killed during the cooking process.

“Foods eaten raw are the most common sources of food poisoning because they do not go through the cooking process,” he says.

Contamination also happens when food comes into contact with organisms found in fecal matter which normally happens when a person preparing food does not wash their hands before handling food.

“Meat, eggs and dairy products are frequently contaminated. Water may also be contaminated with organisms that cause illness,” he says.

Because this is not a rare, one off occurrence, Dr Munene says it is vital that people are aware of the most critical signs and symptoms related to the ailment.

“In most cases, symptoms start within hours after eating contaminated food but they could also begin days or even weeks later. Sickness caused by food poisoning generally lasts from a few hours to several days,” he says.

According to the medic, it is possible to treat food poisoning at home without seeking medical advice since most people will feel better within a few days.

He, however, says if symptoms are severe, persistent, or you are more vulnerable to serious infection, especially for the elderly or those with an underlying health condition, you may need further treatment.

“People should seek medical care if they have an associated fever, blood in their stool and any symptoms of dehydration or if these associated symptoms do not resolve after a couple of days,” he says.

Food poisoning tests are carried out on a stool sample to find out what is causing your symptoms. If results indicate you have a bacterial infection then antibiotics will be given.

“Treatment for food poisoning typically depends on the source of the illness, if it is known, and severity of your symptoms. You might be admitted for close monitoring by your doctor,” Dr Munene says.

During this festive season, Dr Munene says if you are recovering from food poisoning, you should avoid behaviour that makes others vulnerable.

“You should not prepare food for other people. You should also keep contact with vulnerable people, such as the elderly or very young, to a minimum,” he says.

If you are working and have been diagnosed with the condition, he recommends you stay off duty for at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea.