Kancheepuram, Cuddalore selected for pilot study

Two districts in Tamil Nadu — Kancheepuram and Cuddalore — have been selected for a pilot study on screening food-borne diseases. All systems will be in place within a month, and screening will begin.

This modest exercise is part of a bilateral agreement between the United States and India to participate in a Global Disease Detection Program (GDD). The GDD is the principal and most visible programme of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, CDC) to develop and strengthen global capacity to rapidly detect, accurately identify, and promptly contain emerging infectious disease that occur internationally.

P.Gunasekaran, Director, King Institute of Preventive Medicine, Guindy, says in case of an outbreak in these two districts, food samples will be collected by the Primary Health Centres, and sent to Madras Medical College (Referral Centre). The positive samples will then be sent to King institute (Reference centre), for confirmation.

Subsequently, further tests will be done at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata. Likewise, Quality control samples will be received by the King Institute from Kolkata will be processed and sent to the eight referral centres in Tamil Nadu. King Institute, which has been a centre for food-borne pathogen detection for over 50 years now, has been selected as a key partner in the Global Foodborne Network – GDD programme.

“The King Institute has contributed considerably towards active screening of Salmonella and Cholera, food samples and human specimens, and that is one of reasons that we were chosen to participate in the programme,” Dr. Gunasekaran says.

“There have been a large number of food borne outbreaks reported from various states of India. The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme has documented at least 255 food-borne disease outbreaks,” Dr. Gunasekaran explains.

“However there is very little data on the causes for the outbreaks. This can be improved by setting protocols for collecting sample methods and testing at the reference centres,” he says.

To effectively detect the diseases and their causes, infrastructure should be strengthened and health staff trained specifically on these aspects.

The CDC, the GDD Program and the WHO in India, according to him, are collaborating on the area of Food Borne Diseases in Tamil Nadu, especially on in building resources, including human resources at the State. Training programmes are being organised on laboratory diagnosis and epidemiological investigation of food-borne diseases.

The commonest causes of food-borne infections are pathogens like Salmonella, Vibrio cholera, and bacillus cereus. The symptoms of food poisoning are vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and dehydration.

“These are common, or expected symptoms, but the clinical state will change depending on the severity of infection,” Dr. Gunasekaran explains.

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