Since February 2023, 14 people in Austria have become ill with a specific strain of Salmonella (Salmonella Enteritidis ST11 CT9791). Affected persons are aged between 10 and 64 years in the provinces of Burgenland, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria and Vienna. Cases of disease with this strain have also been reported in other European countries. The last known case of the disease in Austria was in May 2023.
Another outbreak also involves Salmonella (Salmonella Enteritidis ST11 CT13755); seven people in Austria between the ages of five and 63 in the provinces of Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, and Vienna have become ill since April, and one 63-year-old Carinthian has died. The last known case of the disease was at the beginning of July.
In the course of clarifying this outbreak, it became apparent that another Salmonella strain (Salmonella Enteritidis ST11 CT2114) is responsible for a further six cases of illness in Austria and also for cases in several other European countries. People aged between seven and 75 years in the provinces of Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg and Vorarlberg are affected. The last known case of the disease was at the beginning of July.
The investigation of these food-borne outbreaks is carried out in close cooperation between AGES, the Ministry of Health and the relevant provincial authorities. Initial investigations indicate with a high degree of probability that chicken meat from Polish production, which was used for the production of kebab skewers, was the source of infection.
Clarification is detective work
Regarding the investigations, it should be said that they are "like detective work." If there is no suspicion of a specific source of the disease based on previous investigations, all persons who have fallen ill must be interviewed according to a precise checklist, their shopping habits must be analyzed, and interviews must be conducted about the course of the disease. In this way, the possible source of the disease can be narrowed down. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.
In the current cases, however, almost all persons stated that they had eaten kebab meat (chicken) shortly before the onset of the disease. Subsequent surveys by the food inspectorates of the German states showed that all affected localities used kebab skewers originating from Poland. Similarly, food and environmental samples were taken, although only one sampling also detected salmonella at one business and the kebap sold there.
The results of the surveys in Austria were and are continuously communicated to the European Commission and the other EU Member States via the European rapid alert system RASFF. The information from Austria serves, especially in Poland, for further surveys and necessary measures by the affected countries.
Information for consumers:
When buying a chicken kebap, make sure that the meat is well heated through: salmonella is safely killed at a temperature above 70 °C; however, this temperature must be reached everywhere in the meat.