Food Hygiene

Household fish preparation, hygiene and cholera transmission

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Infect Dev Ctries 2009; 3(9):727-731.

Household fish preparation hygiene and cholera transmission in Monrovia, Liberia

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Pauline Scheelbeek1, Samuel Treglown1, Tony Reid2, Peter Maes3

1Public Health Specialist, Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium, Rue Dupre 94, 1070 Brussels, Belgium
2 Operational Research Centre, Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium, Rue Dupre 94, 1070 Brussels, Belgium
3Coordinator of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Unit; Médecins Sans Frontières Belgium, Rue Dupre 94, 1070 Brussels, Belgium

Background: In the 1980s Vibrio cholerae was found to be an autochthonous resident of aquatic environments. As result, ingestion of undercooked, contaminated fish has been associated with cholera transmission. An alternative mechanism of transmission associated with fish was hypothesised by Schürmann et al. in 2002. He described a cholera case that was more likely to have been infected by contamination on the patient’s hands rather than by ingestion of contaminated fish.

Methodology: With fish being the main diet in Liberia, we decided to examine fish samples and preparation techniques in Monrovia. Excreta of 15 fish, caught in the estuarine waters of Monrovia, were analysed for V. cholerae. In addition, fish preparation methods were observed in 30 households.

Results: Two fish samples were found positive. Observations revealed that hygiene measures during the gutting process of fish were limited; although hands were usually rinsed, in all cases soap was not used. Furthermore, contaminated water was frequently reused during food preparation.

Conclusions: Since the cooking process of fish (and thus elimination of bacteria) in Monrovia usually consists of both frying and boiling, it seems plausible that in this context, the hypothesis by Schürmann et al. could be applicable. Further research is necessary to confirm this association, which could be a starting point for more context-specific health education campaigns addressing food preparation hygiene as risk factor for cholera.

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Written by WASHplus

July 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

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