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Weekly Focus – What’s going on in the World

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

In Asia, and particularly in Vietnam, there is increasing concern about hand, foot and mouth disease, which has lead to 27 deaths in children this year. Caused by Enterovirus EV71, this is a different type of virus to the much milder hand, foot and mouth disease caused by a Coxsackie virus seen in the UK and the United States. Both are spread by the faecal-oral route, and the key intervention is hand washing.

So far the issue of virulent hand, foot and mouth disease in Asia has generated little interest in the western world. Both the HPA and CDC websites are quiet on the subject, but any spread to the UK would be of concern. Nigel Lightfoot Associates is keeping a close watch on the situation.


Global Food Production


Recent Salmonella outbreaks in the US, most notably the Salmonella bareilly and nchanga infections associated with raw scraped tuna, illustrate the potential for rapid global spread of hazardous food poisoning organisms. Contamination occurred in a single food production facility in India and resulted in widespread dissemination throughout the US. That such an outbreak occurred in the context of Japanese cuisine, usually celebrated in the West for its health benefits, reminds us of the weaknesses in developing countries’ food production systems and the pressures of mass production and global distribution.


In North America there have been increasing reports of foods withdrawn from distribution and sale due to contamination with Listeria. This is in part a reflection of increased testing following the Listeria contamination of cantaloupe melons earlier this year, which led to 13 deaths.

Listeria is a common environmental organism and grows at low temperatures (such as the domestic fridge) unlike other food poisoning bacteria. It is common in the environment and from time to time it is found on foods such as salads. Government advice has been directed at those who are more susceptible to Listeria – the immuno-compromised and pregnant women – and recommends that they should avoid unpasteurised cheese and pay attention to sell by dates of fresh foods.