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Viral Food Borne Illness

What are Viruses?

Viruses consist of protein that needs living tissue for growth such as animals, plant and bacteria. They do not multiply on food. Viruses use food as a carrier to transport into the human body. This may be due to contamination at the source through polluted water or subsequently by infected food handlers.

Where do viruses come from?

Viruses can come from anywhere, in the environment, rivers, streams, the air, soils, food, animals and infected people. Major outbreaks have been associated with many different foods i.e. shellfish, cold buffets, salads, and fruit.

What types of Viruses are there?

There are many different types of virus, the main types of viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhoea, often referred to as viral gastro-enteritis, are infective hepatitis, rotaviruses and Small Round Structured Viruses (SRSVs).

Rotaviruses – often only affect young children. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea. The incubation period is about 4 days and the illness lasts for over a week. Adults are not usually affected but can transfer the virus to other children with poor hygiene. Care must be taken when changing nappies and preparing babies bottles.

For more information see:
Health Protection AgencyCentre for Disease Control & Prevention (USA)

SRSVs – Often the cause of ‘winter vomiting disease’ and known as Norwalk-like viruses (named after an outbreak in the USA). These affect both adults and children with an incubation period of 24-48 hours. The symptoms usually include nausea and vomiting but sometimes abdominal pain, diarrhoea and fever. The virus is transferred by poor hygiene between people and is also airborne.

For more information see:
Health Protection AgencyCentre for Disease Control & Prevention (USA)

Infective Hepatitis – Hepatitis A and B are both caused by viruses. Hepatitis A is also known as infective Hepatitis, spread from infected persons with poor hygiene standards, and infected food handlers. Some outbreaks have been associated with shellfish from sewage contaminated waters. The incubation period is varied between 2 and 7 weeks; symptoms include fever, nausea, abdominal pain and eventually jaundice. The duration of the illness can last between one week or several months and the severity can also vary greatly. Hepatitis B is a blood borne virus not related to foods.

For more information see:
Health Protection AgencyCentre for Disease Control & Prevention (USA)

Good Hygiene for persons suffering from food borne illness:

Personal hygiene is very important in controlling food poisoning. We advise the following:

  • If you or your child are suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting you or your child should stay at home and away from work, school or nursery.
  • Wash your hands and dry thoroughly after visiting the toilet.
  • Toilets including seats, handles, and sink taps must be frequently cleaned and disinfected (at least twice daily). The toilet should also be cleaned any time it becomes visibly soiled.
  • Make sure that children wash their hands thoroughly before eating and after every visit to the toilet.
  • Any soiled garments or bedding or soft toys should be cleaned immediately. The person cleaning up should wear gloves, and use disposable cloths or paper towels, which should be sealed in a bag.
  • Soiled garments and bedding should be washed, separately, in the washing machine on the highest temperature – to kill the micro-organisms.
  • Persons suffering from food poisoning should not prepare food.
  • You or your child should only return to work, school or nursery 48 hours after symptoms have ceased (the last time you felt ill, or had vomiting and diarrhoea).

You should always seek medical advice from your GP, or contact NHS direct. If you believe you are suffering from food poisoning.





01524 582936

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