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Food and Water Safety for Persons Infected With Human Immunodeficiency Virus

June 9, 2003

Immunocompromised persons are more susceptible to serious food-borne and water-borne illnesses than are persons with stronger immune systems. These secondary infections contribute significantly to the morbidity and mortality of HIV-infected persons. Food plays an active role in disease transmission by supporting the growth of the etiologic agent or toxin production, or a passive role where the food does not support growth but serves as a means of transmission.

Food- and water-borne diseases cause nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea with or without additional symptoms of fever, chills, headache and fatigue. Chronic diseases that may result from food-borne diseases include arthropathies, chronic gastroenteritis, organ compromise, and nutritional and other malabsorptive disorders, possibly resulting in death. Cryptosporidium, Microsporidium, Salmonella and cytomegalovirus are the main pathogens resulting in AIDS-related diarrhea. Diarrhea in immunocompromised patients is a challenge for the treatment and prevention of wasting. Fifty percent to 90 percent of persons with AIDS have serious episodes of diarrhea that can be life-threatening.

To prevent or minimize food- and water-borne diseases, the following precautions are recommended in the fifth edition of "Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans," published by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.

"Knowledge of safe food- and water-handling techniques is essential for persons living with HIV and AIDS, their caretakers, and for health care providers to prevent the potentially life-threatening nature of such infections," the authors concluded. "To decrease the risk of infection from enteric pathogens, emphasis should be placed on proper storage of perishable foods, adequate cooking of animal foods, avoiding cross-contamination of raw and cooked foods, ensuring appropriate sanitation in the kitchen, ensuring personal hygiene, and using water from safe sources."

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Excerpted from:
Clinical Infectious Diseases
04.03; Vol. 36: S106-S109; Celia Hayes; Elisa Elliot; Edwin Krales; Goulda Downer

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