Health officials in Northern Territory are investigating an increase in Salmonella infections in the Darwin area. The Centre for Disease Control and the Environmental Health branch are working to identify the source of the infection.

Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Salmonella bacteria (red)/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Head of surveillance from the Centre for Disease Control, Dr Peter Markey, said the investigation is attempting to determine whether there is a common food source among the people affected by salmonella.

Dr Markey said on average the Department of Health would normally investigate 4-8 cases of salmonella infection a week in the Darwin urban region.

“Right now we’re trying to confirm the cause of more than 50 cases.

“Given the number of cases we’ve been alerted to, understandably, we are very keen to quickly identify the source of the problem,” Dr Markey said.

Contaminated raw foods are a common cause of salmonella infection. Potential food sources include eggs, raw meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables. Condiments like spices and sauces are also potential sources of the infection.

Environmental factors including geckos, frogs and family pets can also be a possible sources of infection, particularly among infants and people participating in activities like camping or those doing dirty jobs around the home or garden.

“This cluster is likely to be due to contaminated food and our investigation includes interviewing people affected, inspecting food premises and taking food samples in an effort to identify the source of the current outbreak,” Dr Markey said.

“This type of salmonella has also been increasing in other states and so this cluster may be linked to a national increase.

“But our investigation will continue to assess all possible sources both inside and outside the Territory,” Dr Markey said.

The symptoms of salmonella include fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and sometimes headache. Anyone with diarrhea should drink extra fluids to avoid dehydration. Children with diarrhea, who vomit or refuse extra fluids, should see a doctor.

Anyone with prolonged or severe diarrhea who is vomiting and refuses extra fluids should see a doctor. People should also seek medical advice if they have prolonged or severe diarrhea and are unable to keep down fluids.