THE PREVALENCE OF BACTERIA AND INTESTINAL PARASITES AMONG FOOD HANDLERS

AUTHOR: IRONKWE OKECHUKWU CHUKS

DEPARTMENT: COMMUNITY MEDICINE

AFFILIATION: NNAMDI AZIKIWE UNIVERSITY, AWKA.

An adequate supply of safe, wholesome and healthy food is essential to the health and well-being of humans. However, Food handlers with poor personal hygiene working in food-service establishments could be potential sources of infection due to pathogenic organisms. Objective: To determine the pattern of bacteria and intestinal parasites among food handlers in the FCT and to assess the food hygiene practices of food handlers in the FCT. Methods: The study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of bacteria and intestinal parasites among 168 food-handlers working in various food establishment in the FCT. Fingernail contents of both the hands and stool specimens were collected from all the 168 food-handlers. The samples were examined for bacteria and intestinal parasites following standard procedures. Questionnaire was also used to gather data on some hygiene practices of foodhandlers. Results: 33.3% of the 168 subjects had several species of bacteria isolated from their finger nail content, while only 1.8% had ova of intestinal parasite found in direct wet mount of their finger nail content. However, 38.1% and 62.6% of the 168 subjects were positive for stool parasite and enteropathogenic bacteria respectively. The most common parasites include A. Lumbricoida 14.9%, E histolytica 10.1%, Teania spp 4.8%, and S starcolaris 1.2% while the most common bacteria was salmonella spp 42.3% and Shigella spp 15.5%. Furthermore, 30.4% tested positive for E. Coli. (4.8%), coag. negative staph spp (8.3%), S. aureus (7.7%), klebsiells species (1.8%), proteus species (4.2%) enterococcus species (3.0%) psuedomonas arginosa (0.6%) in their urine. Study also show a statistical significant difference p<0.05 in some of the very poor hygiene practices identified. These include, lack of provision of medication by establishment, non isolation from work environment when sick, irregular use of sanitizers and disinfectants, lack of change of hand gloves between ready to eat meal, irregular food hygiene training, non use of thermometer to check food temperature. Conclusion/Recommendation: The findings highlight the importance of food-handlers as probable sources of infections and suggest health institutions for appropriate hygienic and sanitary control measures.

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