KZN’s health head Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said a bacteria thought to be salmonella had been identified at one Durban-area restaurant. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo

Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s health head said on Monday that there was no outbreak of salmonella in the province, but that a bacteria thought to be salmonella had been identified at one Durban-area restaurant.

“Based on information obtained from the persons who became ill, and having considered the symptoms, incubation period and type of meals consumed, it is most likely that this was due to salmonella, which may have been present in the raw eggs used to make Hollandaise sauce,” said KZN Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, at a press briefing in Durban. 

Dhlomo said he wanted to state “categorically” that there was no salmonella outbreak in the province. “There was a particular restaurant affected and a few of those customers were affected, the matter is being attended to. 

This matter has to do with poorly prepared food in a particular space. 

He said it was important for the media to convey the correct message and not to consider the incident as similar to the listeriosis outbreak experienced nationwide earlier in the year.

“It is not a good story for health or the investor to say there is a [salmonella] outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal. Salmonella is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract and is found in humans and animals. Humans become infected mostly from coming into contact with infected water or food,” he said.  

This issue of food safety and food preparation required municipal oversight, he said, and “advised” that capacity in this regard be strengthened. “We would also like to caution all food handlers to be cautious and to practice the highest standard of hygiene possible when preparing food,” he said.

Last week, The Mercury reported that at least 20 people were hospitalised with suspected salmonella poisoning after eating at uMhlanga’s Old Town Italy restaurant.

As indicated by Dhlomo, tests – done at the restaurant’s behest with independent laboratories - were still awaited to confirm that the food poisoning was indeed caused by salmonella.

Since the Mercury’s report of the restaurant outbreak, other news pieces were written about confirmed outbreaks of salmonellosis at a Durban-area crèche and a restaurant in the Florida Road area. Fifteen people also reportedly had to be treated at a private hospital after falling ill with salmonellosis after a potjie-kos competition a few weeks ago.

On 9 November, Lancet Laboratories sent a “salmonella alert” to doctors, reading: “Please note that we have noticed an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis due to Salmonella species (non-typhoidal) in the KwaZulu-Natal region. These include both adult and paediatric cases.”

“Non-typhoidal Salmonella species are the leading cause of bacterial food-borne illnesses,” read the alert, and could be acquired from a myriad of food sources. “Reported outbreaks have included eggs, fresh vegetables, frozen dinners, dairy products, peanut butter and orange juice.

African News Agency (ANA)