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News | Wednesday, 19 May 2010 Issue. 164

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Food poisoning likelier as climate warms

A study on the health effects of climate change in the Maltese islands warns that rising temperatures increases the likelihood of food-borne diseases like salmonella.
“The rise of ambient temperatures in the future is likely to result in an increase in the number of salmonellosis cases,” a study published in joint publication by the Environmental Health Directorate and WHO warns.
Studies quoted in the report already show an alarming 450 cases of diarrhoea occurring every day costing the country a staggering €16 million.
According to the study, salmonella accounts for about 25% of all notified food-borne illnesses, with an average of 133 notified cases each year.
The highest number of cases was registered in 2008.
The study shows that the salmonella figures rise in May, reaching a peak in the summer months. This reflects both higher temperatures and increased outdoor activities involving food, such as barbeques.
The study compares the mean monthly temperatures and the monthly rates of salmonella over an 18-year period between 1990 and 2008, concluding that for every additional degree rise in minimum temperature there was an increase of 0.54 cases.
This means that for every two-degree rise in minimum temperatures, an additional case of salmonella occurrs.
In view of the increased risks caused by climate change the study calls for increased public awareness on food safety, hygiene and food preparation.
“Food-borne disease outbreaks can be prevented by using safe water and raw materials, keeping food clean and at safe temperatures, cooking food thoroughly and keeping raw and cooked food separated.”
The study was authored by Dr Anthony Gatt from the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Unit and Dr Neville Calleja director of the Health Information and Research Directorate.


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