Drop in activity coincides with thick fog and bank holiday forecast, experts say
The number of Britons falling ill with gastroenteritis fell by 30% in the space of a week after a sharp rise, two food safety experts have said.
Public Health England (PHE) said in a tweet that it had recorded a 26% drop in the number of people under the age of 65 who became unwell with gastroenteritis, including vomiting and diarrhoea, over the week to 3 November.
About 3,330 people became unwell with the disease each day over the week, compared with 5,990 the previous week, PHE said.
The recent decline in cases of the illness could be due to dry weather and a change in behaviour.
Experts said the trend could coincide with heightened activity and timing of UK hot weather and a bank holiday weekend forecast.
Doug Brown, a public health scientist with PHE, said: “This may be due to dry weather, changing footfall patterns this year, and various weather patterns.
“Hot weather increases the potential for vomiting, and on a bank holiday weekend, heavier gusts of wind can dry out and slow down food that is outside. People also tend to be out and about.
“During hot weather gastroenteritis can occur at an earlier age, and many more people pass it on to others, and it may be caused by locally growing food crops.”
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The number of people suffering from severe diarrhoea also fell by more than 15% over the week.
E-coli food poisoning, another common strand of illness, was down by more than 19% over the week.
Richard Harrington, a public health microbiologist with PHE, said: “Although cases of salmonella appear to be a bit higher than average, it is still very early in the year.
“So far there is no evidence to suggest that outbreaks of food poisoning are increasing, although it is possible it will increase as the hot weather spreads into the winter months.
“However, we are seeing cases of campylobacter continue to rise, so people who are susceptible to these illnesses should always cook all raw meats to an internal temperature of at least 80C (176F) to kill the bacteria, and wash hands thoroughly after contact with raw meat.”
The government agency said people should check food labels for “best before” or “use by” dates, but food and drinks could still be safely consumed even after they have passed those dates.