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Epidemic of gastroenteritis in schools

On Thursday, 20th October, a dozen parents of pupils at the La Plage school became concerned about symptoms their children had come home with: diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches and fever. All of these symptoms may indicate an epidemic of gastroenteritis. However, no signs of an epidemic have appeared in other schools in Roquebrune, where the same meal was served to the children, according to statements made by the City Council.

In total, 120 pupils were absent on Wednesday, 19th October due to these common symptoms. At least 21 case of gastroenteritis had been recognised among them. Parents suspected food-borne illness outbreak, or food poisoning, but studies reveal “no pathogenic germs”.
Analyses were undertaken by the departmental veterinary laboratory, who recently announced their verdict.

On Friday evening in the City Council, emails from the Regional Health Authorities (ARS) and Departmental Directorate for the Protection of Populations (DDPP) as well as from the municipality of Roquebrune were presented to the parents with the following decision: “results of analyses undertaken over the food samples on 21st October do not reveal pathogenic germs”.

Therefore, according to these two structures, there are no microbes which could cause the contamination. So, it was not food poisoning? But how to calm parents who are not content with this answer?

“The City Council was trying to reassure us that everything is fine and under control», ̶ stated Ludovic, representative of the parents of pupils at the La Plage school. ̶“Yes, we were shown the emails, but there remain doubts about this bizarre incident and we still have no idea what it was. Common symptoms on the same day in the same place: it really resembles food poisoning even if there is still no proof that this is what it was”.

All dishes from the school canteen, without exception, have been examined by the DDPP: camembert cheese, green beans, fish, pasta and turkey schnitzel.
In the report, next to each named bacteria likely to develop in meals, there is a number, which is a limit threshold which should not be exceeded.

For all these analysed dishes, the figures are correct, except for the turkey where the number of mesophyll exceeds the normal amount by 29 (29 million for 1 million).
“It perhaps due to a problem with storage temperature or due to some violations of the norms during a cooking process. We are going to find this out with the supplier [Scolarest, N.D.L.R.]”, reassured Pierre-Henry Bauer, Head of food service at DDPP. “But it is not enough to cause a food-borne illness outbreak (FBI). And the fact that this turkey sample cooked on 18th October, was under examination on the 24th, a few days later, should be taken into consideration. Moreover, this date exceeds its consumption date by 5 days (19th October). This explains this high figure!”.
However, one thing we can be sure of is that this story will cause victims to care even more about their personal hygiene.

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