Bad, naughty, naughty parents: Outbreak of Salmonella saintpaul in a Scottish childcare facility: The influence of parental under-reporting

Salmonella outbreaks in childcare facilities are relatively rare, most often occurring secondary to contaminated food products or poor infection control practices. We report an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul at a pre-school facility in Ayrshire, Scotland with atypical clinical and epidemiological features.

(me learning to drive a tractor, about 4-years-old)

Methods

Following notification of the initial two cases, the multi-disciplinary Incident Management Team initiated enhanced active case finding and two environmental inspections of the site, including food preparation areas. Parent and staff interviews were conducted by the Public Health department covering attendance, symptomatology and risk factors for all probable and confirmed cases. Microbiological testing of stool samples and the facility water tank was conducted. Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) was performed for positive stool samples at the national reference laboratory. Infection control measures were introduced iteratively due to the atypical progression of the outbreak.

Results

There were 15 confirmed cases and 3 children admitted to hospital during the outbreak. However, 35.7% of cases reported extremely mild symptoms. The attack rate was 15.2%, and age of affected children ranged from 18 to 58 months (mean 35 months). All cases were the same Multilocus Sequence Type (MLST50). Epidemiological investigation strongly suggested person-to-person spread within the facility. Existing infection control practices were found to be of a high standard, but introduction of additional evidence-based control measures was inadequate in halting transmission. Facility staff reported concerns about lack of parental disclosure of gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly where these were mild, with 50.0% of cases having attended while symptomatic against public health advice. Voluntary two-week closure of the facility was implemented to halt transmission, following which there were no new cases. WGS results were unavailable until after the decision was taken to close the facility.

Conclusions

This is the first reported instance of a Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak at a childcare facility, or where person-to-person transmission is indicated. Clinicians should consider the influence of parental under-reporting on gastrointestinal outbreaks in childcare settings, particularly where perceived severity is low and financial or social pressures to attend work may reduce compliance. WGS cannot yet replace conventional microbiological techniques during short, localised outbreaks due to delays receiving results.