Salmonella poisons students at UQ College

Queensland Health is currently investigating the source of a salmonella outbreak at University of Queensland's Cromwell College.
May 2, 2014

Fifty-six students at the campus displayed symptoms of salmonella, while 17 tested positive. Four of these students were admitted to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital on April 10.

Queensland Health is currently investigating the source of a salmonella outbreak at University of Queensland's Cromwell College, which resulted in the hospitalisation of four students earlier this month.

So far, Queensland Health have had no luck pinpointing the source of the outbreak, but it appears to have been an isolated case.

In the Brisbane Times article that reported the outbreak, one of the students admitted to hospital, 17-year old Samantha Cridland explained how she started feeling unwell at the start of the week, and how "everyone had similar symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach aches and fevers."

Salmonella is a dangerous form of gastroenteritis that usually strikes persons who eat undercooked meat (especially poultry or beef), unpasteurised milk or juice, raw or undercooked eggs, or cheese.

Common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhoea (which may contain blood or mucous)
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

Salmonella can also spread through cross-contamination. For example, it can infect people who come into contact with salmonella bacteria through:

  • Cooked food that has touched raw poultry or eggs
  • Contact with contaminated kitchen surfaces, such as chopping boards, and utensils that have been used for raw food
  • Unwashed hands
  • Not washing hands after handling pets and farm animals whose faeces contain Salmonella bacteria
  • Changing the nappy of an infected infant

Salmonella is infectious, and although the illness typically only lasts for 4-7 days, the bacteria may be present in the infected person's faeces for many weeks. Children, seniors, and people who have weak immune systems are the most likely to experience severe infections. In fact, one per cent of adults and five per cent of children may carry the bacteria for more than a year.

Earlier this April, a study published in a US agricultural research magazine discovered that in radio waves used in food treatment can kill 99.9% of salmonella bacteria in raw eggs without altering taste or texture. But until this method is tested and adopted into widespread practice by Aussie food producers, take care with all raw and cooked food to avoid salmonella poisoning.