Intestinal infections

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These notes are a guide for people who are suffering with a case of food poisoning or suspected food poisoning.

Tell your doctor!

If you visit your GP or local hospital and they suspect you have food poisoning or gastro-enteritis, then your GP has a legal duty to tell us about it. An investigating officer will contact you to give advice, information and also to arrange for collection of a faecal specimen if needed. It’s also important that you see your doctor to get advice on treatment.

The sources of food poisoning/food borne illness are:

  1. Contaminated foods, such as undercooked meats and poultry, raw milk or polluted drinking water.
  2. Pets and farm animals.
  3. Catching it from another person, often due to poor hygiene.

Your symptoms will vary depending on the type of infection you have, but common symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pains, fever, headaches or dizziness. You may experience one or more of these symptoms depending on which infection you have.

Good personal hygiene will help to make sure you do not pass the infection on to your family or close friends. Make sure that everyone washes their hands thoroughly using soap and warm water after visiting the toilet, nappy changing, handling pets and before preparing any foods. Supervise children wherever possible.

Effective cleaning and disinfecting is essential. Soiled clothing and bed linen should be washed in a washing machine in a ‘hot’ cycle. If heavily soiled, as much faecal matter as possible should be carefully removed and then flushed away in a toilet. Heavily soiled laundry should be soaked in a household disinfectant solution before washing in order to reduce contamination. Always wash your hands thoroughly after handling soiled laundry.

The toilet seat, rim, bowl, flush handles, toilet door handle and bathroom taps must be disinfected after use with a disinfectant or sanitiser such as Milton, Domestos or anti-bacterial spray. Pour neat steriliser around toilet bowl at night and flush in the morning.

Toys or other items which are normally shared by children in the household should be separated during the period of infection, so that healthy children do not play with the same toys as the patient. Toys used by the patient should be disinfected (if possible) by wiping with a cloth containing a mild disinfectant and then rinsing with clean water before they are handled by any other children.

Take care when you come into contact with other people. For most food poisoning type infections segregation or quarantining of patients is not usually needed, except in cases of highly infectious diseases, but it is still wise not to let the patient mix closely with the very young or elderly as they can be more likely to pick up an infection than other people. Playing with children should be restricted as much as possible and contact with children outside the immediate family should be avoided until the patient has been recovered from their symptoms for a few days. 

Infected children should not go to playgroups, nurseries, childminders or school and certain other infected people should not go to work until they have been completely recovered for at least 48 hours, e.g. food handlers, nursery workers, nurses or carers for the elderly. Sometimes clear faecal specimens (negative result) are needed before they can go back to work. An officer of the Department will inform you when you are able to resume these activities.

Your GP will be able to give you advice on treatment. If you need any further advice or guidance please contact us.

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