The outbreak of a new and virulent strain of E coli in Germany serves to remind us the importance of food safety, especially with regard to preparing meals for preschool children. Usually when we think of food poisoning, we think of under-cooked meat or eggs - we don't consider that salad can kill.
The source of the E. coli outbreak has still not been traced. Suspicion initially fell on cucumbers supplied to the German market from Spain, but increasingly this is looking unlikely. Currently in Germany, advice is to avoid eating cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes.
How could foods as innocuous as cucumbers and tomatoes pick up deadly strains of E. coli in the first place? Researchers are focusing on the possibility that the deadly bacteria comes from manure used in growing organic crops.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK gives the following advice:-
Be safe and make sure that you prepare food with care, whether you are preparing meat, fruit, vegetables or even salad!
Did you know that the human body harbours more bacteria than there are humans on the planet, or that viruses constantly mutate which is why we suffer colds year after year?! Few of us really understand the difference between viruses and bacteria, but a little knowledge helps us to combat disease and remain healthy.
Bateria are single celled organisms, many of which are good for us or at least harmless. Bacteria in our gut helps break down food and bacteria are used to break down sewage and oil spills. Unfortunately, some bacteria are harmful to us and when infected, our body fights to emit them; this is why we develop coughs and colds and this is what the body is attempting when we contract food poisoning. Bacteria can be controlled with antibiotics, drugs specifically developed to target bacteria.
Unlike bacteria which multiply by continually dividing, viruses need to attach themselves inside our own cells in order to reproduce. Antibiotics don't have any effect on viruses and there's not much that can be done to fight them other than to leave the body to its own devices. You might take paracetemol or ibuprofen to help reduce your temperature, but there's no medication for the virus itself - you just have to sit it out and let your body fight it naturally. With children, the best you can do is help relieve the symptoms and encourage them to rest through the period of infection.
With little ones around the house, you'll find that bacterial and viral infections are common. Children clustered into nurseries or playgroups spread bacteria and viruses very effectively! Preventative steps to avoid being struck down both by bacterial or viral infections are much the same. Here are some tips to help prevent contamination in the first place:-
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