Riders in a three-day mountain biking event held last week in KwaZulu-Natal got more than just a good workout from their efforts. Within hours of completing the gruelling 260km event, many of the 1 200 riders (as well as some of those involved with event organising) developed gastrointestinal problem and showed flu symptoms.
The organisers of the Subaru Sani2c mountain biking event determined that affected participants were infected with a form of food poisoning, called shigella enteritis – caused by bacteria that infect the digestive tract and cause diarrhoea along with cramping, abdominal pain, chills, headache and fever. If not treated, patients may become progressively weaker and suffer dehydration.
In a communication with participants, the event organisers deny that the bacteria was spread from one of the race villages or feeding points along the route. They blame the spread of the infection on an outbreak of shigella in the region of KwaZulu-Natal. However, no independent formal reports about such an "outbreak" could be found.
Usually outbreaks of shigella enteritis are associated with poor sanitation, contaminated food and water. The bacteria can spread from an infected person to contaminate water or food, or pass directly to another person. The time between exposure and development of symptoms is one to seven days, and an average of three days.
According the USA Today Health Encyclopaedia, outbreaks are occasionally caused by contamination of food by infected food handlers.
(Health24, March 2009)