UK – As the summer holiday season reaches its peak, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a stark warning to travelers planning trips abroad to exercise caution and follow crucial guidelines to minimize risk of foodborne infections.
Since the beginning of 2023, nearly 250 cases of Salmonella infections have been reported in the United Kingdom, with all linked to travel to Turkey.
The UKHSA has identified several clusters of gastrointestinal illness in individuals who recently returned from Turkey, with the majority having visited the picturesque Antalya region. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) analysis has revealed genetic similarities in some cases, pointing towards a potential common source of infection.
Between January and July 19, a total of 241 confirmed cases of Salmonella enteritidis have been reported, with most cases recorded from April onwards.
The infected individuals are predominantly male, with a median age of 29 years old. While 93 cases provided travel information, the affected people stayed in various hotels across Turkey and indulged in a variety of foods at their resort as part of all-inclusive holiday packages.
The source of the illness remains unidentified, prompting UKHSA, Turkish health authorities, and other international public health agencies to launch ongoing investigations.
In light of the escalating situation, UKHSA has issued a timely warning ahead of the school summer holidays, urging travelers to exercise caution and follow crucial guidelines to minimize the risk of infections during their trips abroad.
General travel advice to mitigate risks
UKHSA advises travelers, regardless of their destination, to be vigilant about their food and drink choices to prevent serious foodborne illnesses.
Key steps to reduce the risk of infection include thorough handwashing, especially after using the toilet and before handling food.
Additionally, ensuring that foods are cooked or reheated thoroughly and that perishable items are kept cool in the fridge or freezer can help safeguard against contamination.
Further advice from the agency includes consuming only fruit that has been peeled by the travelers themselves, if possible. Additionally, opting for pasteurized dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese can offer an extra layer of protection against potential infections.
Gastrointestinal illnesses, particularly caused by pathogens like Salmonella, can have severe consequences for certain vulnerable groups.
Pregnant women, adults aged 65 and over, children aged 5 or under, individuals with underlying health conditions, and those with weakened immune systems are at a heightened risk and should exercise extra caution when traveling.
Salmonella outbreak in Turkey’s Rixos Sungate Resort
In a related incident, a prominent law firm, Irwin Mitchell, has received distressing inquiries from over 130 holidaymakers, including 50 children, who fell seriously ill while vacationing at the Rixos Sungate resort in Turkey.
A significant number of these cases have been linked to Salmonella, which poses a particularly dangerous threat to the most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly.
According to their attorneys, tests for salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter came back positive for fourteen families who had just returned from the Rixos Sungate Hotel in Antalya. Additional visitors have further reported incidences of food illness to MailOnline.
UKHSA has stated it is looking into the cause of the illnesses experienced by several people who have recently shared their accounts of suffering from horrifying symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting with MailOnline.
Customers have uploaded pictures of what they claim to be undercooked food being given at the hotel restaurant, as well as reports of fresh food being heaped on top of old servings, dirty tables, plates, and cutlery, and food being left out in the open at buffet restaurants.
As health authorities continue to investigate the Salmonella outbreak in Turkey and travelers remain on high alert, it is crucial for all holidaymakers to prioritize their health and safety, taking the necessary precautions to enjoy their vacations without unnecessary risks.
By adhering to UKHSA’s advice and maintaining vigilance, travelers can significantly reduce the likelihood of infections and ensure a memorable and healthy holiday experience.