FOOD-BORNE ILLNESSES YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Foodborne illness is caused by consuming contaminated foods or beverages. Many different disease-causing microbes or pathogens can contaminate foods, so there are many different types of foodborne illnesses.
Most foodborne diseases are infections caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Other diseases are poisoning caused by harmful toxins or chemicals that have contaminated food. Of note, many foodborne pathogens also can be acquired through recreational or drinking water, from contact with animals or their environment, or through the person-person spread.
What are foodborne illnesses?
Foodborne illnesses are illnesses caused by food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Infectious organisms or toxins are the most common causes of food poisoning.
Foodborne disease covers a wide spectrum of diseases that are caused by contaminated food. This contamination may occur at any stage starting from the process of food cultivation or rearing of meat-giving animals to harvesting, processing, packing, cooking, and serving before consumption. The most commonly contaminated foods are raw meat, fish, eggs, and chicken amongst others. Most uncooked dishes like salads, yoghurts, etc can be contaminated when kept open on a serving plate, on the counters, or outdoors for a long time. When people touch food without washing their hands properly, the germs in their hands may also contaminate the food.
What causes foodborne illnesses?
Consuming contaminated food is the main cause of food-borne illnesses. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation and also before, during, and after food consumption is most important to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Pesticides and medicines in the food can be harmful to some people. These substances may cause any part of the digestive system to cause chaos in the intestinal flora.
Some common causes of foodborne illnesses include:
➡ Pathogenic bacteria:
The most common cause of foodborne illnesses is bacteria. Some of the common pathogenic bacteria are:
▪ Vibrio Cholerae: A bacterium that causes Asiatic cholera in humans.
▪ Salmonella Typhimurium: Are bacteria that infect the intestinal tract and the blood. The disease is referred to as typhoid fever.
▪ Staphylococcus Aureus: This is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infections, such as abscesses, boils, furuncles, and cellulitis (red, swollen, painful, warm skin).
Are bacteria that target the intestines. These symptoms of the food-borne disease caused by enterotoxins last long after the causal microbes have been killed.
Viruses cause about one-third of cases of foodborne illnesses in developed countries.
Some of the viruses that cause foodborne illness are:
▪ Enterovirus: Any group of RNA viruses that typically occur in the gastrointestinal tract, sometimes spreading to the central nervous system or other parts of the body.
▪ Rotavirus: It is a very contagious virus that causes diarrhoea.
▪ Norovirus: Noroviruses are a group of viruses (previously known as Norwalk-like viruses) that can cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
▪ Hepatitis A: It’s an inflammation of the liver that can cause mild to severe illness.
Mycotoxins are the toxic chemicals produced by fungi that colonize crops and these crops are harvested, distributed, and consumed. The common mycotoxins that cause food poisoning include:
▪ Aflatoxin: This is a class of toxic compounds produced by certain molds found in food, which can cause liver damage and cancer.
▪ Altertoxins: Any group of toxic secondary metabolites produced by fungi of the genus Alternaria.
▪ cyclopiazonic acid: Cyclopiazonic acid (CPA) is an indole-tetratomic acid neurotoxin produced by some of the same strains of A. flavus that produce aflatoxins and by some Aspergillus oryzae strains.
➡ Natural Toxins:
Several foods may naturally contain toxins. Some plants can be toxic by nature. Animals can be toxic to humans if they have consumed a plant that has a poisonous substance to which the animals are immune. Some types of mushrooms have toxic chemicals in them. Shellfish poisoning can be classified into various types such as paralytic amnesia, diarrhoea, or neurotoxicity, depending on the type of shellfish consumed.
Some of the possible ways for food to get contaminated which results in foodborne illnesses include:
▪ Food items touched or prepared by a person who is sick, especially the cooked ones like salads and fruits could lead to contamination.
▪ Animal waste is used as manure to fertilize the field or unclean water is used for washing the fruits or vegetables. These can contaminate the raw fruits and vegetables.
▪ Food obtained from animals that are consumed raw, such as raw meat, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, raw shellfish, etc.
➡ What are the signs and symptoms of food-borne illnesses?
Some of the common symptoms of food-borne illnesses:
▪ Severe abdominal pain
▪ Diarrhea with or without blood
▪ Fever and Chills
▪ Backaches and Joint pains
The symptoms of foodborne illnesses also depend on the condition. The symptoms can range from mild abdominal pain and nausea to a serious sickness that can last up to several days or even prove fatal. Foodborne pathogens that can disturb the nervous system like clostridium botulinum can cause a different set of symptoms. These include headaches, numbness of the skin, dizziness or weakness, blurred or double vision, or even paralysis.
➡ How do you treat foodborne illnesses?
Treatment of foodborne illnesses is mainly symptomatic and is focused on replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.
▪ Infectious Diseases of the digestive tract are treated with suitable antibiotics.
▪ Diarrhea in adults can be managed with over-the-counter drugs like loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate. These medicines are not recommended to be taken if diarrhoea is accompanied by blood.
▪ Life-threatening symptoms and complications may require hospitalization. These symptoms include severe dehydration, paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome.
➡ Prevention of foodborne illnesses
Below are a few steps we can take to help prevent foodborne illnesses:
▪ Safely handle food at home
▪ Wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
▪ Raw and cooked perishable food items must be frozen or refrigerated promptly till they are ready to be used.
▪ Fruits and vegetables must be washed and scrubbed with a brush before cooking and eating.
▪ Utensils and serving cutlery must be washed with hot soapy water before and after they have been used for serving food.
Because bacteria are everywhere, cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. By keeping everything clean that comes in contact with food, consumers can be assured they are helping to do their part to Be Food Safe.
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