[Photo by Evil Erin]
Upset stomachs featured twice in the headlines recently. On 5th September, there was news that comedian David Walliams attempt to swim the Thames for charity had been hampered by a stomach bug contracted when he swallowed some murky water.
And on 6th September, new research was published which showed that almost one in four people in the UK suffers from stomach upsets each year. Alarmingly this figure has risen 43 per cent since the mid-1990s.
The statistics were compiled by researchers at the University of Manchester on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Food poisoning is a major cause of stomach bugs – about 5.5 million suffer from this illness each year.
No win no fee solicitors can help people make a personal injury claim if they have suffered food poisoning as a result of a manufacturer or seller’s negligence – if a shop has sold out-of-date or insufficiently-refrigerated food, for instance.
According to the latest FSA statistics:
Roughly half of all people who were affected by an infectious industrial disease (IID) had to take time off work or school
The highly-infectious vomiting bug Norovirus is the biggest cause of tummy upsets in the UK
Campylobacter – which is mainly found on raw poultry - caused the majority of bacterial IID in the UK; 500,000 (three per cent) of cases of IID were caused by this bacteria.
Why are more people suffering from stomach bugs?
When asked why the number of stomach upsets has soared by 43 per cent since the 1990s, an FSA spokesman said: “The study didn’t actually look at the causes of the increase although we definitely won’t rule out further research into the underlying reasons. However, I would speculate that norovirus is one of the biggest causes of upset stomachs and - as this is subject to seasonal and year-to-year fluctuations – it is not too surprising that the figures should differ quite noticeably from decade-to-decade.”
The spokesman added: “Factors such as the weather can cause norovirus figures to vary enormously. Hot summers can be a breeding ground for infections and it is quite possible that during 1993 to 1996, which was the time of the previous study, there were not the sort of conditions for norovirus to thrive in.”
The emergence of new strains of bug should also be factored in. The FSA report summary mentioned that sapovirus (one of the four most common forms of IID-related pathogens) has increased “due to the emergence of a new genotype”.
Hope for the future
It is the hope of the FSA that its research into norovirus and campylobacter will lead to a reduction in the number of cases of food poisoning and upset stomachs. Identifying whether steam cleaning or deep freezing poultry for a short period can eliminate harmful bacteria forms a key part of the current research.
While the recent European outbreak of e-coli food poisoning was found to originate far away from the UK, it seems that the causes of campylobacter-related illnesses in the UK can be found rather closer to home.
Recent research by the FSA discovered that 65 per cent of chicken samples on sale within the UK were riddled with campylobacter. Worryingly, chicken raised on British farms was found to have a 76 per cent contamination rate.