Spain hit by virus outbreak – two dead as farms rocked by rampant spread of salmonella

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According to a recent joint report by the European Food Safety Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, as of January 11 this year there had been 272 confirmed cases. This included twelve cases in the UK.

The largest had been in France, with 216 cases, followed by Spain with 22 and the Netherlands with 12.

Sixty cases said they had consumed egg products before falling ill.

The news follows an outbreak of the bird flu in southern France in late December, where six outbreaks at French duck farms were confirmed by the country’s chamber of agriculture.

There has been a rise in the number of salmonella cases since September 2021, according to the report.

The European Agencies said on February 10 that some of the cases reported in France at the end of last year had visited a restaurant serving eggs from a single supplier, which packaged eggs from three Spanish farms.

One of those farms later tested positive for the outbreak strain.

Eggs from that farm “were withdrawn and redirected for use in heat-treated egg products”, the report said.

However, no other countries had received the same eggs, and so the source of the other cases “could not be established”.

The report said that the 2021 outbreak was linked “microbially to a historical cross-border outbreak reported by the Netherlands in 2019.

“Eggs consumed by cases in the Dutch outbreak were traced back to a Spanish farm, but it was not possible to identify an epidemiological link with the 2021 outbreak.”

This, the report warned, suggested a “wide distribution of the outbreak strain” which “could affect the food supply chain”.

There may be “multiple” sources of this particular salmonella outbreak, and the strain “could also be circulating at other farms, inside or outside Spain.”

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The hunt for the source of the outbreak had begun after France recorded a cluster of 46 cases in the summer of last year.

The European agencies said the risk of new infections “remains high” in the EU.

As of December 22 last year, the UK had identified 10 cases in England and two in Scotland.

Investigators found that four of the cases had travelled abroad before coming down with the illness, two of whom having travelled to Spain.

Historical cases in the UK predominantly saw travel to Spain before contracting the disease.

The European agencies estimated that there would have been over 1,000 cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2014.

According to the NHS, Salmonella infections are caused by bacteria that live in the gut of birds and animals.

When food is improperly handled, that bacteria can be ingested, causing an infection in a human.

The NHS estimates it can take anywhere between six hours and three days before presenting symptoms, which include diarrhoea, cramps and sickness.

The symptoms usually clear up within 3-7 days, but some people can be hospitalised with the illness.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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