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Sun 28 Oct 2007 01:16 PM

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Scores hospitalised in food poisoning scare

Third outbreak in four months blamed on bad food or contaminated water, report says.

Jordan was engulfed in yet another food poisoning scare on Sunday with nearly 300 people struck down with fever and diarrhoea since the outbreak first came to light on Thursday.

Health officials in the country have attributed the poisoning in Sakeb village in the northern Jerash Governorate to either bad food or contaminated water, however many residents suspect contaminated water is the main reason for the outbreak, the Jordan Times daily reported on Sunday.

Authorities are testing sample of water, food and excrement to detect salmonella, shigella or cholera which may be causing the symptoms, and expect to have results in the next two days, Health Minister Salah Mawajdeh told the newspaper.

Mawajdeh said that 90% of the people treated for the symptoms had eaten hummus from a restaurant two kilometres outside the village. Authorities have since shut down the restaurant.

Residents claim that not everyone suffering from symptoms consumed the restaurant’s hummus, and that the village’s water network is 40 years old and worn out.

Sakeb - a town of 20,000 people outside Jordan's Roman ruins of Jerash and about 30 miles north of the capital Amman - receives tap water once a week according to a schedule set by water authorities. Its turn was Thursday evening, the day the cases started to arrive at the hospital.

However, Adnan Zu’bi, assistant secretary general of the Water and Irrigation Authority, said that “routine tests have shown drinking water safe and fit for consumption”, the newspaper quoted.

Some village residents also believe the number of people infected to be ‘much higher’ than the 300 estimated by authorities.

Scores of people suffering symptoms were transported to Amman and other cities for treatment on Saturday, according to Jordan Times.

The food poisoning outbreak is the third such case in four months.

In August nearly 250 people contracted salmonella poisoning from eating chicken shawarmas at a local restaurant in the Baqaa Palestinian refugee camp close to Amman.

Authorities began a campaign following the outbreak to clamp down on fast food restaurants not adhering to health and safety regulations, causing estimated costs of between 100,000 Jordanian dinars ($141,237) to 250,000 dinars a day to the industry.

Two ministers in July quit over a water contamination scandal that saw more than 1,000 Jordanians needing hospital treatment.

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