JIS News

Director of Veterinary Public Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Linette Peters, has urged Jamaicans to exercise care in preparing eggs to prevent salmonella poisoning.
“The Ministry of Health is recommending that eggs be properly cooked before being eaten,” she said, stressing that persons should avoid consuming undercooked or raw eggs. Although there is no outbreak of the bacteria, a few cases have been reported over the years, but mostly among visitors to the island. The Ministry identified the first case in a north coast hotel in 2000, with subsequent infections also being recorded in other hotels. Dr. Peters told JIS News, that cases were more prevalent in hotels as a result of the method in which table eggs were handled and consumed.
“In the hotels,” she explained, “eggs are usually served partially cooked or even raw depending on what the clients are requesting and the salmonella organism is found in eggs, which have been contaminated in the layer of the egg’s ovary.”
She informed that much like a tourist, the average Jamaican could also become infected if care was not taken in the handling and cooking of eggs.
Eggs are best kept if stored between seven and 12 degrees centigrade, and therefore it is best that they are refrigerated “because the salmonella organism multiplies more rapidly in warmer temperatures.”
When purchasing eggs, Dr. Peters advised that consumers should select eggs that are clean on the outside and not cracked. As for their preparation, she stressed that persons should properly wash their hands with soap and water when handling them. In addition, they should be used within two hours of being taken from the refrigerator. Salmonella is a type of bacteria usually found in poultry, eggs, unprocessed milk and in meat and water. The bacteria can also be carried by pets such as turtles and birds.
The salmonella bacteria attacks the stomach and intestines. In more serious cases, the bacteria may enter the lymph tracts, which carry water and protein to the blood, and the blood itself. The bacteria attacks all age groups and both sexes. Children, the elderly and people, who are already ill, are much more likely to get a serious infection.
Dr. Peters informed that symptoms of salmonella poisoning can be manifested within two to four hours of eating infected eggs, and includes fever, diarrhoea, gastrointestinal pain, and vomiting.
Discussing the medical assistance administered to those who are infected, she noted, “physicians do not necessarily recommend antibiotics for the treatment of salmonella poisoning.”
“In fact, it is reported that antibiotics tend to increase the multiplication of the organism so rather we would recommend that the disease run its course but that you take in a lot of fluids because if you have diarrhoea and vomiting, you will be losing fluids and become dehydrated, hence you need to replenish,” she informed.
In its efforts to monitor Jamaica’s poultry industry and also safeguard against salmonella infections, the Ministry of Health has a surveillance programme in place whereby visits are made to egg farms and inspections are carried out on samples of eggs.
“The monitoring is limited at this time, but we are hoping that with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), we will be expanding the programme island wide, so we will be checking table egg farms in every parish,” Dr. Peters said.
PAHO has previously aided the Health Ministry through the establishment of a laboratory at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay to conduct testing for salmonella.
Furthermore, PAHO will continue its provision of training for Jamaican field inspectors and laboratory technicians to conduct farm assessments and laboratory tests for salmonella. The training sessions are expected to get underway within two months.
Notwithstanding the dangers posed to health by improper handling of eggs, Dr. Peters said that eggs remained one of the most nutritious and complete foods, containing most of the nutrients required by the body.
“It is a very good food, convenient, and easy to prepare and cook, but nonetheless, we must realise there are some risks associated with it if we abuse the way we store and handle it,” she stated.