FOOD poisoning cases from a potentially deadly bug commonly found in chickens are on the rise in Scotland.

Nearly 6000 people in Scotland were sickened by campylobacter in 2017, up nine per cent on the previous year, while confirmed cases of salmonella remained stable at 839.

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The latest figures from Health Protection Scotland (HPS) come after it emerged that just under one in 20 fresh whole chickens sold by leading retailers in the UK had tested positive for the highest levels of contamination with the campylobacter bacteria - 1,000 colony forming units per gram - between October and December 2017.

The bug is believed to be the number one cause of food poisoning annually in the UK every year, and it has been estimated to claim 100 lives a year.


Although it is most commonly found in poultry, it can also be passed to human through red meat, mushroom, shellfish, unpasteurised milk and untreated water.

Symptoms typically set in within two to five days of consuming contaminated food and can include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever.

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The majority of people recover fully within a week, but certain groups are more vulnerable to the infection, such as pregnant women, frail elderly and children aged four or younger.

The HPS statistics show that there were 5796 laboratory-confirmed cases of campylobacter in Scotland in 2017, up by 485 (9.1 per cent) on 2016.

The increase follows a decline during each of the previous two years. However, it still remains below the peak of 6636 reports in 2014, the last year in which an outbreak of campylobacter was recorded.

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Infection rates on the mainland during 2017 varied from 87.4 per 100,000 population in Ayrshire and Arran to 174.6 in the Borders, although the biggest year-on-year increase occurred in Forth Valley.


Meanwhile, cases of food poisoning caused by salmonella have levelled off. In 2017, there were 838 confirmed cases, almost unchanged from 839 in 2016. This is below the peak in 2008, when there were more than a thousand confirmed cases.

The prevalence ranged in 2017 from 20.1 per 100,000 in Dumfries and Galloway to 7.1 per 100,000 in Highland.