Infectious diseases - investigation

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Environmental Health Officers are responsible for investigating infectious diseases. Although there are many different infectious diseases, food poisonings account for a large number of cases seen in the UK. Other examples of infectious diseases that we investigate include Hepatitis, Legionnaires Disease, Rabies and Malaria.

We work closely with Public Health England to monitor and investigate infectious diseases and to help reduce the number of infectious disease notifications each year. Please contact them for more information on their role.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is a general term applied to illnesses picked up from eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses or chemicals. Symptoms may include one or more of the following: vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and/or fever. The severity and duration of these symptoms will vary depending on the illness involved. In some cases, the food responsible for causing the illness could have been consumed from two hours to several weeks earlier.

What should I do if I am suffering?

If you feel you are suffering from the symptoms of food poisoning, you should seek advice from your doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will assess your condition and may ask you to provide a stool sample for testing. This will show what organism, if at all, caused your illness.

If you have any food remaining that you suspect is the source of your illness, keep it in a sealed container in the fridge as it may be needed for testing to confirm your suspicions.

If there is any indication that you have been made ill from a food business within Tonbridge and Malling, then officers from the Food and Safety Team will carry out further investigations.

Food poisoning is not always someone else's fault, it could be your own. It is important to take care when storing and preparing food. Most food poisonings result from food prepared at home.

How do we investigate food poisonings?

We find out about people suffering from food poisoning from doctors, the patients themselves or the testing laboratory. The aim of our investigation is to try and find out where you may have picked it up from and to prevent any further spread.

If you are diagnosed with a food poisoning infection, then you will be sent a questionnaire about foods consumed and any activities you may have done before the start of the illness, as well as your occupation to see whether you are likely to pass the infection on.

Exclusion from school or work* may be needed until the symptoms pass. Each case will be considered individually and a decision on length of exclusion from school or work will be based on the risk of spread of infection from the patient to other individuals.

(*Exclusion from work will only be required for those working in the food industry or in the care of people in hospitals or child care centres).

Further Information

The Food Standards Agency website will give you more advice on what to do if you are suffering from food poisoning, in addition to further information.

However, please feel free to contact the Food and Safety Team