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Saturday, 10 February, 2001, 00:40 GMT
Salmonella infection cases drop
Eggs from vaccinated hens have helped cut salmonella cases
Eggs from vaccinated hens have helped cut salmonella cases
The number of salmonella infections has fallen to its lowest level for 15 years, say experts.

A report from the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) has found cases dropped by 54% in 2000 from a peak in 1997.

Last year there were 14,845 reported cases of salmonella in England and Wales compared to 32,596 in 1997.

In 1985 there were 13,330 cases of the food poisoning, which is often caused by eating infected poultry or undercooked eggs.

Salmonella and other gut infections such as E.coli and Campylobacter can be very unpleasant, but are unlikely to cause death in most of the population.

It is likely that the recent fall in cases is the result of vaccination of poultry flocks

Linda Ward
The strain of salmonella which has fallen most, Salmonella enteritidis PT4, was prevalent during the 1980s and early 1990s.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) welcomed the news of the fall in salmonella cases and said it was due to its "rigorous" vaccination programme.

BEIC chairman Andrew Parker said: "The latest figures confirm that the Lion Quality vaccination programme is working. We believe that British eggs are now the safest in the world."

Preventing infection

Linda Ward, head of the salmonella research unit at the PHLS, said: "This is a dramatic reduction and is obviously welcome news.

"The strain became prevalent in the 1980s, and has typically been associated with eggs and poultry.

"It is likely that the recent fall in cases is the result of vaccination of poultry flocks, a programme which appears to have had major public health benefits."

The PHLS said consumers could help prevent infections by being careful about hygiene in the kitchen.

It advises:

  • Cook all food thoroughly
  • Check meat is cooked by pushing a knife into the centre and ensuring juices run clear
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate
  • Wash hands after handling food and before eating

Complacency warning

But Dr Sarah O'Brien, head of the gastrointestinal diseases division, said the public should not become complacent about food safety.

Dr O'Brien added: "For some people most of the time, gut infections are unpleasant rather than life-threatening, but sometimes they can be far more serious, and even fatal.

"Where these infections are foodborne, it is important that we continue to work throughout the food chain to minimise the risk of gut infections.

"But these infections can also be spread from person-to-person through poor hand hygiene; and sometimes directly from the environment as we have seen when cases of E.coli infections have followed farm visits."

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See also:

05 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
'One in ten' suffered food poisoning
26 Aug 00 | Health
Salmonella cases 'rise'
06 Sep 00 | UK
Food poisoning clampdown
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