The national salmonella outbreak which has struck down nearly 250 people across Britain could be traced back to a single source of eggs, health investigators have said.
Dr Paul Cleary, consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England, said:
An international search to find the source of a Salmonella outbreak that has so far been linked to three deaths is under way.
Public Health England says all 156 cases it is investigating are linked - and are likely to have come from a single source.
ITV News correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports:
It has emerged that three people who caught Salmonella and were at Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital have died.
In total, 43 people in the West Midlands have caught the food poisoning bug, 34 of them connected with the Heartlands Hospital.
A Hospital spokesperson, said:
One of the deaths is subject to a coroner’s inquest and therefore we are unable to comment at this stage.
We can confirm that we have tested both food and water at the Heartlands site and have ruled these out as the root cause of the infection.
We are working with the Public Health England to investigate the other two cases, which includes the possibility of the infection being community acquired.
Health officials have revealed that 55 cases of Salmonella have been reported in the county. They say 32 of those are connected to the Real China restaurant in Eastleigh. Across the country, 156 people have been affected by the gastrointestinal illness over several months. George Williams from Southampton had it and told us he struggled to even get out of bed.
Public Health England has announced it is investigating a national outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis - but what is it?
- It is a strain of bacteria that causes gastrointestinal illness
- The bacteria can be found in uncooked meat, seafood, poultry and eggs
- It is one of the most common strains of Salmonella reported worldwide
- Anyone can get a Salmonella infection
- However, the elderly, infants and people with impaired immune systems have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill
Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever.
Source: Public Health England and US Center for Disease Control
Public Health England has been "making good progress" in its investigation into a national outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis, the doctor leading the probe has said.
Consultant epidemiologist Dr Paul Cleary said they "hope to have more conclusive evidence shortly."
“We will continue to monitor the situation and if there is any further public health action necessary then we will ensure that this takes place,” he added.
Health officials have warned they are investigating a national outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis.
The cases of Salmonella were reported:
- Hampshire: 55 cases - 32 were connected with a single restaurant
- London: 25 cases - 11 people were hospitalised
- Cheshire and Merseyside: 33 cases - 31 related to a single restaurant
- West Midlands: 43 cases - 31 connected with Birmingham Heartlands Hospital outbreak
Cases have also been seen in France and Austria, Public Health England said.
There have been no cases of Salmonella reported in Wales or Scotland so far.
A national outbreak of Salmonella that has affected 156 people is being investigated, Public Health England said.
The cases in England "occurred in isolated clusters over several months" and have been managed locally, according to the health watchdog.
However, the cases of Salmonella "are now being reassessed as potentially linked under a national investigation," it added.
A salmonella outbreak affecting at least 23 victims has forced the Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham to close down eight wards as a leading public health lawyer calls for a probe into what caused the infection.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed that four of its staff and 19 patients have tested positive for a common strain of salmonella.
Amandeep Dhillon, a leading public health lawyer, has called for an investigation into the outbreak.
Mr Dhillon said the "unusual" outbreak, which has left eight people in a stable condition at Birmingham's Heartlands Hospital, might provide lessons to help prevent future outbreaks.
"Attention will then need to turn to identifying the cause of the infection. This will be essential to provide victims and their loved ones with the answers they will want as to what caused their illness," Mr Dhillon said.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever.