Beware of cholera in summer
The hot and humid summer weather favours bacterial growth. Public should pay special attention to food safety in order to prevent cholera infection through consuming food and drinks.
Cholera is an infectious foodborne disease caused by bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The incubation period of cholera is usually about two to three days and symptoms include sudden onset of profuse watery diarrhea with rice-water like stool, vomiting and dehydration. If treatment is delayed or inadequate, death may follow.
A person may get cholera by drinking water or eating food contaminated with the bacteria. One of the main sources of contamination is the faeces of an infected person, and the disease can spread rapidly in areas with inadequate treatment of sewage and drinking water. Food may also be contaminated by soiled hands during preparation or while eating. In addition, the cholera bacteria may be naturally present in seawater, and people may get cholera after eating raw or undercooked contaminated seafood including fish, shellfish and crustaceans like shrimps and crabs. Food consumed raw, such as sashimi, vegetable salads and fruits are some of the high-risk food items.
In general, public are advised to take the following preventive measures:
- Do not buy food from unlicensed food premises or illegal hawkers;
- Pay attention to hygienic condition of shops and the storage temperature of food;
- Buy those shellfish which are fresh, with intact shell and free from abnormal odour.
Food hygiene at home
- Store raw and cooked food separately. Place cooked food in the upper compartment of a refrigerator;
- Thaw frozen food completely and ensure thorough cooking;
- Clean seafood thoroughly with the viscera and shell of shellfish removed;
- All seafood should be cooked thoroughly before consumption;
- Use separate utensils and equipment to handle raw and cooked food especially ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross contamination;
- Eat cooked food as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should they be kept at room temperature for more than 2 hours;
- Store left-overs in a refrigerator at a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius or below, and reheat them thoroughly before consumption. Discard any spoilt food;
- Boil water completely before drinking; and
- Ice used for drinks should be made from potable water.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap before eating, preparing food and after going to toilet.
- Keep kitchen clean; and
- Throw refuse into a well covered dust bin and clean up regularly.
- Patronize licensed food premises with good environmental hygiene;
- Avoid eating raw seafood (condiments such as salt, vinegar, wine and wasabi cannot kill bacteria); and
- Seafood should be thoroughly cooked before eating.
- Travellers should take precautions against cholera and mindful of what they eat abroad.