A simple piece of advice will improve health

What preventive measures will help to avoid diseases?

The number of acute enteric infection cases increases dramatically with the approach of summer.

Acute enteric infections represent a large group of infectious diseases common to humans; they progress from the digestive tract, caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoan microorganisms.

Infection with enteric diseases may occur from contact with ill people or bacilli carriers, the use of infected water or foodstuffs. Flies, cockroaches and rodents transfer the causative agents of these infections. These are often called ‘dirty hand illnesses’ as the bacteria are spread in this way to products and tableware for example, leading to distribution of the infection. Bathing in unsanitary open reservoirs is also a cause of infection.

The bacteria that cause the illness are insensitive to exposure and can remain in the environment for a long time, up to 3 months in tap water and from 5 days to 14 weeks on vegetables and fruit. Foodstuffs, especially dairy and meat products, and also kitchen utensils and cold dishes are a favourable environment for the disease. On these items, microbes of salmonellae and Sonne dysentery bacillus can breed at temperatures ranging from 20 to 40°.

Salmonellosis is caused by salmonellae bacteria, which are widespread in nature. Salmonellae cause diseases in livestock, pigs, poultry, etc. The basic source of the infection is poultry, especially waterfowl.

Salmonellae are insensitive to all factors in the environment. Being in foodstuffs they can remain viable for many days and months. In meat, fish and dairy products, salmonellae breed well, without changing the flavour of the product. The optimum temperature for the reproduction of salmonellae is 30-37°. At temperatures above 50°, reproduction stops, and when heated to 60° the bacteria die in an hour, at 70° this is reduced to 30 minutes and at 80°, 10 minutes, at boiling they are destroyed instantly.

Recently, eggs, egg products and poultry have become the prime cause of salmonellosis. Bad or/and broken eggs can be particularly dangerous. With lengthy storage, salmonellae can travel from the surface into the egg yolk where they breed quickly at a favourable temperature.

A frequent cause of salmonellosis disease is the use of meat and meat products. Meat from slaughtered animals is often a cause. This is intensified in the processing and preparation of minced meat. Minced products, pastes, jellied meat and fish or meat in aspic, liver and blutwurst sausages and navy-style macaroni are particularly dangerous.

The incubation period for salmonella fluctuates from 6 to 48 hours. The disease can progress in different forms and with varying degrees of severity. A rise in the body’s temperature to 38° or higher is followed by abdominal pains, aches, weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea are characteristic.

The cause of dysentery is dysentery bacilli of the Shigella type. Their source can be infected people and bacilli carriers. Recently, a frequent cause of dysentery has been identified as dairy products. The Sonne dysentery bacillus is capable of breeding and accumulating in starters and dairy products. It remains in milk for more than two weeks, in sour cream for 11-86 days and on vegetables and fruit for 3-8 days. Sonne dysentery often has an easy, shortened course, but many of those who have been ill with it become carriers.

On the whole, the general symptoms of enteric infections are sluggishness, weakness, and loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pains and a rise in temperature. When a patient suspects an enteric infection, it is often necessary to call a doctor. It can be dangerous to self-medicate enteric infections in children, as fluid loss develops quickly and can lead to life-threatening complications.

Basic measures to prevent enteric infections:

  • Observe the rules of personal hygiene (wash hands with soap after using the lavatory and before meals).

  • Wash berries, fruit and vegetables carefully before eating.

  • Children could eat thermally processed berries, vegetables and fruits.

  • Do not store or use products past their expiry date, observe the rules of storage, and put perishable products in the refrigerator.

  • Separate products from each other during shopping, in the refrigerator, and on the kitchen table. Pathogenic microorganisms can transfer to products from fruit and vegetables, which are not washed and thermally processed before eating (bread, cheese, etc.).

  • Never allow flies, which are carriers of infections, to rest on food.

  • Boil any water taken from open reservoirs for drinking, washing of fruits, berries or tableware.

  • It is not recommended to use unpasteurised milk.

  • It is not recommended to buy foodstuffs (in particular berries, fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy products) in places of unlicensed trade.

  • It is forbidden to bathe in reservoirs without knowing if they follow a sanitary code.

  • Following these simple recommendations will help to avoid acute enteric infections and will keep you and your families in good health!

By Tatiana Zhukova, Doctor of higher category, M.D. Ph.D.
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