The purpose of infectious disease investigation
Certain infectious diseases are notifiable to the Health Authority and these are investigated by the Heatlh protection Agency (HPA) or by Environmental Health Officers. We investigate food poisoning and certain other food borne illnesses which are notifiable.
The purpose of infectious disease investigation is to try to prevent the spread of illness within the community and to try and establish possible causes. Advice is also given to the patient on how to prevent the spread of disease within the home.
Many different sorts of bacteria (germs) can cause food borne illness. When food is kept warm, these bacteria can grow rapidly and reach dangerous levels within hours. The numbers of cases of food borne illness have increased dramatically over the past few years, particularly during the Summer months. Good food hygiene standards in industry and the home are vital to prevent food borne illness.
The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism and in some cases can be up to 10-15 days after consumption of the food. It is important to realise therefore, that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms.
The main causes of food poisoning and food borne illness are:
- Preparing foods too far in advance
- Not cooking foods properly
- Not defrosting foods correctly
- Storing foods incorrectly (i.e. too warm) so that bacteria can grow quickly
- Cross contamination of foods after cooking
- Infection from people handling foods due to poor hygiene