Careful with those beets; raw grated beetroot linked to several outbreaks of sudden-onset gastrointestinal illness, Finland 2010

Aussies like their beetroot – what North Americans would call beets. They’re plentiful at the markets and I’ve roasted beetroot and shredded it into salad. McDonald’s has a new Aussie lamb burger, and toppings include an egg, onion, lettuce, some sort of goop and beetroot.

The American novelist Tom Robbins wrote an ode to beets in 1984’s Jitterbug Perfume:

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lustly enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…. The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stiched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.”

People in Finland may have a different impression of beetroot (I’m sorry, I don’t do impressions).

According to a new paper in Epidemiology and Infection, in 2010, 7/44 (16%) reported foodborne outbreaks in Finland were linked with raw beetroot consumption. In the seven outbreaks, 124 cases among 623 respondents were identified. Consumption of raw beetroot was strongly associated with gastrointestinal illness (relative risk 8·99, 95% confidence interval 6·06–13·35). The illness was characterized by sudden onset of gastrointestinal symptoms; the median incubation time was 40 min and duration of illness 5 h. No common foodborne pathogens or toxins were found in either clinical or beetroot samples, but all tested beetroot samples were of poor quality according to total bacterial counts. Beta-haemolytic Pseudomonas fluorescens was detected in several beetroot samples but its effect on human health is unknown. No outbreaks were reported after the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira advised against serving raw beetroot in institutional canteens.

Cricket players barfing because of bottled water at T20?

ICC officials are believed to be investigating suggestions the gastro virus that has swept through at least three teams at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka is linked to the type of bottled water supplied at match venues.

New Zealand trio Dan Vettori, Tim Southee and Rob Nicol and Australia’s Mitchell Starc and Brad Hogg are among those players at the tournament who’ve been struck down with gastro and upset-stomach dramas in the past week.

Southee received hospital treatment for dehydration.

Members of the Ireland team were also struck down.

But even with the barfing, cricket is still dull.

Crypto outbreak in Welsh school kids?

Public health officials are investigating several cases of stomach illnesses in sixth formers at a Cardiff school.

There has been one confirmed case of cryptospiriodis amongst sixth formers at The Bishop of Llandaf Church in Wales school.

Four other cases are also being looked at amongst pupils who went on a school trip over the Easter holidays.

Perhaps they went to a farm?

Surveillance of acute infectious gastroenteritis (1992–2009) and foodborne disease outbreaks (1996–2009) in Italy

From this week’s Eurosurveillance, Mughini-Gras et al. describe trends in the occurrence of acute infectious gastroenteritis (1992 to 2009) and food-borne disease outbreaks (1996 to 2009) in Italy.

In 2002, the Piedmont region implemented a surveillance system for early detection and control of foodborne disease outbreaks; in 2004, the Lombardy region implemented a system for surveillance of all notifiable human infectious diseases. Both systems are Internet based.

We compared the regional figures with the national mean using official notification data provided by the National Infectious Diseases Notification System (SIMI) and the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), in order to provide additional information about the epidemiology of these diseases in Italy. When compared with the national mean, data from the two regional systems showed a significant increase in notification rates of non-typhoid salmonellosis and infectious diarrhea other than non-typhoid salmonellosis, but for foodborne disease outbreaks, the increase was not statistically significant.

Although the two regional systems have different objectives and structures, they showed improved sensitivity regarding notification of cases of acute infectious gastroenteritis and, to a lesser extent, food-borne disease outbreaks, and thus provide a more complete picture of the epidemiology of these diseases in Italy.

The barf did me in: Djokovic loses at Australian Open

Reuters reports that Novak Djokovic was lamenting a case of gastroenteritis after he lost his Australian Open quarter-final to France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Serb had just won the third set to take a 2-1 lead and Tsonga looked deflated before Djokovic left Rod Laver Arena after he told chair umpire John Blom he needed to vomit.

While he managed to return, his game melted away and Tsonga ran out a 7-6, 6-7, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 victor to set up a semi-final against Roger Federer, after the Swiss came from a set down to defeat Russian Nikolay Davydenko in four sets.

"I don’t want to find excuses for my loss, but, you know, I went to vomit and I had diarrhoea before the match. After two games (of the fourth set) I had to go to the toilet. I couldn’t hold on. There was no way, otherwise I would throw up on the court… just a terrible feeling."

Djokovic said he was unsure as to what had caused the sickness, as he had not eaten anything out of the ordinary.

The victorious Tsonga said Djokovic’s illness was just part of the game.

"Sometimes it happens. … He had problems with his stomach… bad luck for him and good for luck for me."