Researchers have identified how a specific strain of salmonella is getting into Bermuda’s drinking water system, prompting environmental health officials to reiterate advice on how to avoid getting ill.
The research team, led by doctoral student Shervon De Leon, took faecal samples from 273 creatures on the Island and discovered that feral chickens and pigeons were the main carriers of salmonella mississippi.
They concluded that although chickens cannot access rooftops, they can pass on the disease-causing bacterium to other animals, such as pigeons and lizards, at shared feeding grounds, which can lead to the contamination of water tanks and the spread of salmonella mississippi to humans.
Elaine Watkinson, a senior public health analyst, told The Royal Gazette that householders should treat untreated or “raw” water like raw meat, adding: “You have to do something to your food, such as cooking raw meat or washing vegetables and fruit. Don’t assume the water is safe.”
Susan Hill Davidson, acting chief environmental health officer, added: “We have more detail. It’s an opportunity for us to again get the message across and maybe some people like to listen to the science and that might be the thing that might spur them [to treat their water].”
David Kendell, director of the Department of Health, said adult Bermudians who had lived here all their lives might have developed some immunity to bacteria in tank water but others were at risk, especially bottle-fed infants whose formula was made using untreated water, and those with compromised immune systems.
“People need to really look at it in terms of protecting the health of their children,” he said.
The joint study into the source of salmonella mississippi — which is the predominant strain of salmonella in Bermuda and on the Australian island of Tasmania, but in very few other countries — was prompted by an earlier Caribbean-led burden of illness report.
That report found from the testing of human stool samples that salmonella poisoning accounted for almost half of the gastroenteritis cases in Bermuda, with some 70 per cent of those salmonella cases involving salmonella mississippi.
Gastroenteritis is a public health concern on the Island, with an annual incidence of one episode per person per year.
Click to read the full article Royal Gazette: Salmonella risk identified in tank water by Sam Strangeways.