UK Health Protection Agency investigates outbreak of Salmonella in Watermelons

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th February 2012

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK is investigating cases of Salmonella newport related to watermelons following a salmonella outbreak that has infected 35 people across the country.

Dr Bob Adak, head of the gastrointestinal disease department at the HPA said “Although it is too soon to say with certainty what the likely causes of the infection are, early indications suggest that a number of people became unwell after eating watermelon”.

Dr Adak also said that cases have been also notified in Scotland and Germany. However the investigation is ongoing.

Dr Adak strongly advised to make sure that people wash and clean vegetables and fruits before consumption to reduce the risk of possible illnesses, although this number represents a small number of people becoming sick from eating watermelon is low.

The HPA identified Salmonella Newport was detected in sliced watermelon imported from Brazil in a local food survey in north-west England in November 2011. The people who consumed this watermelon were subsequently infected with Salmonella newport.

Previous outbreaks of the virus were also detected in areas of Germany and the Netherlands in 2011, from various vegetables such as bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts.

A HPA spokesperson concluded that “The HPA is liaising with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and colleagues in the devolved administrations to investigate this outbreak. The FSA will work with the food industry to ensure that our food is safe to eat and they will take any necessary actions to remove unsafe food from the supply chain”.

There are over 2,500 different types of Salmonella species and Salmonella Newport causes a similar illness to other forms of Salmonella infection.

As with most Salmonella strains it affects the stomach and intestines. Most cases resolve within four to seven days but some people need a course of antibiotics. Complications can include septicaemia (blood poisoning) or a localised infection e.g. septic arthritis.