KASARAGOD: Devananda (16), who fell sick and died after having shawarma, was killed by shigella infection caused by a bacteria of the same name, said Kasaragod district medical officer Dr A V Ramdas.
More than 52 persons fell sick after eating shawarma from Ideal snacks bar in Cheruvathur on April 29 and 30. Devananda had shawarma from the snacks bar on both days, said police.
Of the 52 persons under treatment, seven patients are in intensive care units in three hospitals but their conditions have stabilised, said Dr Ramdas.
The presence of shigella was established after samples of blood and stools of the food-poisoning victims were tested at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital, he said.
Unhygienic, undercooked or contaminated food and water can be a source of shigella, which can cause an intestinal infection that is very contagious, said the district medical officer (DMO).
The sliced meat stacked on a spit for shawarma is slow-roasted for hours in front of a flame that can penetrate just one centimetre, said Dr Ramdas. During rush hours, if the eatery chooses to serve fast, many customers would get undercooked meat, he said.
The mayonnaise, which is made of eggs, and vegetable salad served with the shawarma can also be a source of the bacteria because the present weather is ideal for their multiplication, said Deputy DMO Dr A T Manoj.
"The bacteria can also spread if the food was handled by an infected person," he said.
The public should maintain proper eating and food hygiene to prevent the spread of shigella, he said.
Most of the patients under treatment after eating shawarma from Ideal are between the age of 10 and 20 years. The youngest patient is a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, and the oldest is a 39-year-old man.
What is Shigella
Shigella infection or shigellosis is an intestinal infection caused by the shigella family of bacteria, Dr Ramdas said. Diarrhoea is the main symptom of the infection. "This is more serious than the usual loose motion," he said.
It can spread by consuming unclean water, spoiled food, unwashed fruits and vegetables, or closely interacting with shigella-infected persons, he said.
The infection can be fatal for children below the age of five years and those with weak immunity. "If the public is not careful, shigella can spread very fast," he said.
Diarrhoea, stomach pain, fever, vomiting, tiredness, and blood in stool are a few common symptoms of the infection. The infection can last for two to three days.
Police make third arrest
Meanwhile, Kasaragod police have arrested Ahmed, the manager of Ideal snacks bar. The police had earlier arrested the shawarma maker Sandesh Rai and Anex M, a partner of the snacks bar, and charged them with culpable homicide not amounting to murder. They were remanded in judicial custody.
The police have also issued a lookout circular against the owner of the shop Kunhahamed, who left for Dubai before the cases of food poisoning came to light.
In the early hours of Monday, unidentified persons had set on fire a Maruti Omni van of the snacks bar. A mob also threw stones at the shop, breaking its window panes.
Chandera police registered a suo moto case in connection with the arson attack on the vehicle.