South African health officials reported recently an increase in Salmonella cases in KwaZulu-Natal Province over the past two months and say Salmonella was also the most likely cause of two recent foodborne disease outbreaks reported from eThekwini Municipality.

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

Two weeks ago, local media reported at least 20 people have been hospitalized in Durban.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is assisting the district and provincial health department outbreak response teams’ ongoing investigations. Teams are gathering additional information about the outbreaks and other reported cases, and also collecting food and environmental samples to investigate the source/s of the outbreaks.

NICD has received isolates from private and public laboratories, and is conducting additional tests to determine if the Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people across the province are related. Health-promotion and food safety education is ongoing.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The public is encouraged to practice the World Health Organization’s Five keys to Safer Food, which include:

  • Wash hands and surfaces before, and regularly during food preparation
  • Separate raw and cooked food, and don’t mix utensils and surfaces when preparing food
  • Cook food thoroughly – all bacteria are killed above 70oC
  • Keep food at safe temperatures – either simmering hot, or in the fridge
  • Use safe water and safe ingredients to prepare food.