Healthy living

Quarter of UK population gets stomach bug every year

One in four in UK suffer from stomach bugs every year Nearly 19 million working days lost

One in four people in the UK now suffer from stomach bugs each year, experts have found.

Up to 17 million people in the UK are affected by infectious stomach bugs which cause diarrhoea and vomiting, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.

Stomach bugs accounted for nearly 19 million lost working and school days last year.

The study, which is the biggest of it's kind for 12 years, is to be presented at the Health Protection Agency's annual conference today at Warwick University.

Around three million people caught the highly infectious winter vomiting bug - norovirus - last year, while another half a million were victims of Campylobacter, a food-poisoning bacterium found in raw and undercooked meats, and unpasteurised milk.

Campylobacter cases generally peak during the summer months as people eat more barbecued food.

Another study found that a third of ice cubes used to chill food and drinks in restaurants, hotels and cafes contained bacteria which indicated "poor hygienic practice."

Environmental Health Officers and HPA experts tested 141 ice samples from 88 coffee shops, bars, hotels and restaurants.

A third of the samples were found to have "unsatisfactory levels of coliform bacteria," including ten samples with Enterobacteria and one with E.coli.

Both types of bacteria can be found in the gut of humans and animals, and could indicate faecal contamination, the researchers said.

Judith Tapper, from the HPA’s Leeds laboratory, said businesses should ensure "ice making equipment and any utensils are part of the strict cleaning plans and procedures that all food and drink establishments should already have in place."

“Proprietors should also ensure that ice water is fresh and not left in machines or buckets for long periods of time. We should remember that water can become stagnant after a while and the same applies to ice."

This article was published on Tue 13 September 2011

Image © LianeM -

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