Contaminated spiced cake sold at a summer barbecue in the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen may have sparked a viral outbreak of the country’s third largest omicron variant, thus rendering 65 percent of the population extremely susceptible to becoming ill from the disease. The spiced cake, which was sold in abundance at a summer barbecue that the town held for members of the local tourist association, may have contained the bacteria campylobacter. A contaminated batch was seized in December and tested in the Pasteur lab in Paris.
The known contribution of bacteria from the German sago palm to omicron variant outbreaks has been causing concern for more than a decade, but the pattern of infection has been unique. About 6 percent of infected campylobacter can be lethal to a healthy individual, and more than one-third of the US population can become infected with some type of the bug — but they can do so without experiencing symptoms. The zebra-like epizootic killing of the omicron variant strains is attributed to the high numbers of humans passing along the bacteria to animals (particularly cats). Additionally, campsites are reputed to harbor substantial numbers of cats, which can carry the disease to humans via faeces.
“We have a lot of numbers and a lot of people at summer time, and the trend is to come together,” said Dr. Gerhard Messmacher of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, who estimated that many more people become affected by the omicron variant infection than even cases of the more common campylobacter infection. “It is remarkable that so many people get affected in an epidemic like this.”
Campylobacter causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever, and is generally passed to humans by contaminated food or water. No parasite or virus presence is detected in common farming and aquatic mammals. But humans can become infected with campylobacter by contact with contaminated food, poor hygiene, or touching infected surfaces. When omicron variant infections emerge, they are particularly virulent, even in young children and elderly people.
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