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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Washing Raw Chicken may land you in a Hospital

Posted by Dr Prahallad Panda on 7:28 PM Comments

Many, including myself are unaware of the fact that washing raw chicken may land us in a hospital and may make us chronically ill.

English: Chicken in public market, Mazatlan, S...
English: Chicken in public market, Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico. Français : Des poulets dans un marché. Mazatlán, État de Sinaloa, Mexique. Türkçe: Açıkta satılan tavuklar, Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Meksika Español: Pollos en un mercado en Mazatlán, Sinaloa, México. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In some cases of gastroenteritis, it is being seen that there was a history of washing raw chicken some days back. A notorious bacterium called campylobacter is being increasingly incriminated for this.
The chicken are carrier of campylobacter, which may contaminate hands, work surfaces, sinks, clothing, cooking equipment such as chopping boards, sponges and cloths etc.; spreading through the droplets of water slashing, while washing it. Droplets from washing chicken under a kitchen tap can travel up to a metres.
A few campylobacter are needed to cause disease and food poisoning. This does not occur as soon as contaminated food is taken, in contrast to some other bacteria causing food poisoning, viz. Staphylococcus and E. Coli etc.
It may take between one and five days. In about half of the cases, the illness starts with 24-hour with flu-like symptoms. It progresses to profuse diarrhoea that can contain blood; vomiting, abdominal pains and cramps may accompany it. Typically, it lasts around a week.
The main problem is that someone can recover from this acute episode, but in about a quarter of patients, the bacteria can trigger a number of conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is due to an irreversible change in the lining of the gut that can last for years in some cases. One possible cause is a toxin produced by the bacteria that disrupts bowel function.
The infection may also damage nerves lining the gut, responsible for gut motility leading to altered bowel movements and increased awareness of pain in the gastrointestinal tract.
Around 1 per cent of cases of campylobacter infection may lead to 'reactive' arthritis, which is usually short term, but can sometimes become chronic. Here, inflammation - redness and swelling - are triggered in response to an infection. This most commonly affects the joints (leading to pain and stiffness), the eyes (causing conjunctivitis) and the urethra (leading to pain when urinating). The classic triad of arthritis, urethritis and conjunctivitis is termed as Reiter's Syndrome.
Another more alarming condition, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, is strongly linked to campylobacter. Although rare, it usually occurs after a viral or bacterial infection, which may trigger the immune system to attack nerve roots and peripheral nerves, causing partial paralysis and sometimes even death. Around 1,200 people a year suffer from it.
While anyone can get campylobacter food poisoning or the serious complications, the under-fives and over-60s are at a slightly increased risk because their immune systems tend to be weaker.
C. jejuni and C. coli are most frequently reported in human diseases.
Take home message:
  • The bacteria normally inhabit the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals such as poultry and cattle, and are frequently detected in foods derived from these animals.
  • Campylobacter species can be killed by heat and thoroughly cooking food.
  • To prevent Campylobacter infections, make sure to follow basic food hygiene practices when preparing food.

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