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Infectious disease and food poisoning

Infectious disease

Diseases such as Avian Flu, Legionnaires Disease, Leptospirosis, and Tuberculosis all pose a public health risk. Whilst infectious disease cases are relatively rare, it is important that they are controlled at an early stage to prevent the spread of infection. Our Officers play an important role in controlling this public health threat. We work closely with Public Health England on identification of any diseases.


Officers from the Council's Health Protection Section investigate reported cases of food poisoning and other infectious disease. These are usually reported to us following a sample being taken by a GP, when it has been confirmed what the cause of illness is. Appropriate advice will be given on a case-by-case basis.

It is important to remember that food handlers and other infected persons/children under the age of 18 who pose a risk of spreading any disease or illness through work should remain away from work until at least 48 hours after the person is symptom-free. This period may increase in some instances. This exclusion should also be applied to children who attend school, college, pre-school groups or nursery.

Whilst there are a number of common food poisoning organisms, it is becoming increasingly common for similar symptoms to be caused by the spread of viral infections such as the Norwalk Virus. These are usually transmitted by person to person spread; contact with infected surfaces; or may be airborne.

Information on most infectious diseases and food poisoning organisms can be found at Public Health England

Further information can also be found on the NHSDirect website.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes fatal illness. Food poisoning occurs when a person eats food or drink that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses. Very occasionally, toxins from bacteria, chemicals or pesticides can also cause food poisoning.

It is almost impossible to determine if food and drink are contaminated simply by the appearance, taste or smell as these may not be affected. Food poisoning can affect one person or a group of people, depending on whether they have all eaten the same contaminated food.

Most food poisoning is caused by bacteria. Some bacteria can grow and multiply very rapidly given the right conditions of moisture, food, warmth and time. The more bacteria present, the higher the chance of infection and illness. The most common types of bacteria to cause infection are Campylobacter, E.Coli and Salmonella.

It is estimated by the Food Standards Agency that up to 5.5 million people in the UK are affected from food poisoning each year, and only a small number of these visit their GP or get medical advice.

Most cases of food poisoning are not reported because people have mild symptoms and recover quickly. As a result, less than 100,000 cases a year are tested for the exact cause of food poisoning.

The most common symptoms of food poisoning (diarrhoea and/or vomiting) may be caused by infections or non-infectious agents. All cases of gastroenteritis should be regarded as infectious unless evidence suggests otherwise.