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1984: Epidemic 'spreads to second hospital'

Three more people have died in the food poisoning epidemic at hospitals in Yorkshire bringing the total number of deaths to 22.

The outbreak began at Stanley Royd Psychiatric hospital in Wakefield on 26 August.

One of the latest victims comes from a nearby hospital and there are fears the infection may be spreading.

Local health officials have denied this but have still been unable to trace the source of the problem.

Baffled

Administrators at the hospital have strongly denied allegations of a cover-up and the Chairman of the Wakefield Health Authority, Sir Jack Smart, said they were happy to give all the information they had available.

The investigating team are said to be baffled by conflicting evidence of the infection's source, but it hopes to have better information by the beginning of next week.

The man heading the biological investigation, Dr Geoffrey Ireland, said the investigation had not been easy.

"We were dealing with sick, elderly people - and trying to find out exactly what they eat... proved to be a very difficult situation", he told the BBC.

Doctors working on samples of the bacterium in Leeds have admitted there is only a 50% chance of ever tracing the source of the outbreak.

But with 22 dead and 34 still sick, public health officials in Yorkshire are hoping for answers soon.

In Context
The actual number of deaths caused by the salmonella outbreak was 19, with over 400 people infected.

There were calls for a prosecution over the epidemic, but these were hampered by the "crown immunity" of hospitals, which makes such action impossible.

An Institute of Environmental Health report cited 97 similar cases, and the scale of this outbreak forced a change in the law.

On 7 November 1986 crown immunity was removed from NHS kitchens - and the health inspectors moved in.


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