Typhoid alert as 70 people may have been exposed to disease in hospital

Hospital group says risk of ‘further contagion’ low and all protocols had been followed

Ireland East Hospital Group said the patient in question presented to the Wexford hospital on August 7th and then admitted to the hospital with a gastrointestinal complaint. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Health authorities have contacted up to 70 people who were treated at Wexford General Hospital in August at the same time as a patient confirmed as having typhoid fever.

The Ireland East Hospital Group said on Monday the people who had been contacted may have used the same toilet facilities as the patient concerned. But, it said, the risk of "further contagion" had been assessed as low.

Typhoid fever, caused by bacteria Salmonella typhi, is a serious and potentially fatal infection; however, it is rare in Ireland. It typically causes fever, headaches, nausea and severe loss of appetite. It takes between 10 and 20 days to develop symptoms once the condition is contracted and it can be treated effectively with antibiotics.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), if typhoid is very mild or not properly treated, a patient may start to feel well but still be carrying the disease. If so, the illness could return, or could be passed to others. It is also possible to become a healthy carrier of infection.


Admitted to hospital

In a statement, Ireland East Hospital Group said while it cannot comment on individual patient cases, the patient in question presented to the Wexford hospital's emergency department on August 7th and subsequently was admitted to the hospital with a gastrointestinal complaint.

It said the HPSC and all other health departments had been informed and all national protocols had been followed. The patient diagnosed as having typhoid fever was subsequently discharged, having been treated appropriately.

“The risk of further contagion has been assessed as low,” it said.

The hospital group said the 70 patients contacted had been asked if they had used toilet facilities at the hospital. They were given contact details for hospital staff and a list of symptoms associated with typhoid and told to call if any symptoms had manifested or if they were concerned in general.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent