Food safety critical for a healthy Moon Festival, CDC says

HEALTH TIPS::People should keep uncooked food fresh, cook food thoroughly and wash their hands frequently to avoid contracting viruses

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Sep 18, 2013 - Page 3

Good personal hygiene and food safety should be kept in mind during the Mid-Autumn Festival, the season for barbecuing in the country, in order to avoid contracting viral gastroenteritis, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

The percentage of people visiting hospital emergency rooms because of diarrhea during the festival, also known as the Moon Festival, has increased over the past three years, the agency said.

The rates were 5.32 percent in 2010, 5.54 percent in 2011 and 7.22 percent last year, compared with 4.74 percent, 4.06 percent and 5.75 percent during the week before the festival, the agency said.

The CDC cautioned that infections in the stomach and bowels such as diarrhea are caused by bacteria or viruses and are mainly spread through the fecal-oral route. Transmission may occur through consumption of contaminated water or food or through direct contact with an infected patient.

Among the viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, norovirus is highly contagious and often causes gastroenteritis outbreaks in schools or other places with high population densities.

Shellfish such as oysters and clams can store pathogens from contaminated water, and eating raw shellfish can therefore lead to infections that cause gastroenteritis, the CDC said.

The agency urged people to maintain good food safety and personal hygiene by keeping uncooked food fresh, cooking food completely, and washing hands frequently and carefully during the festival for a healthy and safe holiday season.