On 22 March 2013, 150 of 1,255 students (13–17 years) and staff at a school in London reported gastrointestinal symptoms; onset peaked 8 to 12 hours after a lunch served in the school on 21 March. We performed a retrospective cohort study of all students and staff. We defined cases as school attenders on 20 and 21 March with onset of gastrointestinal symptoms between 20 and 23 March.
We tested food, environmental and stool samples of cases for common pathogens and bacterial toxins. We administered an online questionnaire via email, encouraging the use of smartphones to respond, to measure risk of illness for food items eaten at school on 20 and 21 March. Survey response was 45%. Adjusted risk ratios were generated in a multivariable analysis. Those who ate chicken balti on 21 March were 19.3 times more likely to become ill (95% confidence interval: 7.3–50.9). Clostridium perfringens was detected in all 19 stool samples collected. Within eight school hours of its launch, 412 of 561 (73%) responders had completed the survey. Hygienic standards in the kitchen were satisfactory. The investigation was done rapidly due to smartphone technology and we recommend considering this technology in future outbreaks.
Simone B, Atchison C, Ruiz B, Greenop P, Dave J, Ready D, Maguire H, Walsh B, Anderson S.