Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes deadly illness. Typical symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea that occur suddenly (within 48 hours) after consuming a contaminated food or drink.
Depending on the contaminant, fever and chills, bloody stools, dehydration, and nervous system damage may follow.
These symptoms may affect one person or a group of people who ate the same thing (called an outbreak).
According to Dr. Edie Gisagara, a Clinical Officer at Kibagabaga Hospital, “Food usually becomes contaminated due to poor sanitation and preparation.”
“Food handlers who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom or suffer from infections often cause contamination. Poorly packaged food stored at the wrong temperature also promotes contamination,” he explained.
In 2009, over 300 Kigali residents who turned up for the Kigali City Council (KCC) meeting that took place at the Kigali Independent University (ULK) over the weekend reported cases of food poisoning.
This and other cases of food poisoning have forced some people into eating meals at their homes and not in restaurants and hotels.
“A research was done at Kibagabaga Hospital that reveals that most patients who we interviewed preferred having their meals at home instead of public restaurants and hotels,” said Gisagara.
Martine Kagenza is a 37-year-old resident of Remera who narrates his personal experience with food poisoning and vows never to eat in any restaurant again.
“It was mid March last year when as usual decided to go for lunch in a nearby restaurant next to our offices, everything seemed okay but later on after 50 minutes, I felt a strange feeling followed by stomach upsets nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, it was so embarrassing and confusing at work place,”
“One day I became very ill after eating from a restaurant.
I was rushed to hospital for examination and the Doctor explained that the cause of my agony was food poisoning. It was a painful lesson to learn and I can never let myself loose and experience it again. These days I pack lunch from home and all is well,” Kagenza said.
Food poisoning is caused by bacteria such as Staphylococcus that is transmitted through poor hygienic conditions.