Food poisoning and infectious diseases - Information about Gastroenteritis


All cases of Gastroenteritis, enteritis or suspected food poisoning should be regarded as infectious, although diarrhoea and vomiting may be caused by many things, not all of them being infectious. 

Infection may pass from an infected person to another in various circumstances. For example, if an infected person contaminates their hands whilst nursing or caring for another with an infection and transfers the germs to his / her mouth or food. 

Personal hygiene following Gastroenteritis 

To prevent the possible spread from person-to-person the advice given below should be followed.

1. Hand-washing

  • Thorough hand-washing with soap in warm running water and drying is the most important factor in preventing the spread of gastrointestinal infections. 
  • Doctors, nurses, relatives and other carers must wash their hands after handling patients, their bedding, clothing, or sick room equipment, and again before preparing or serving food. 
  • Patients and attendants must always wash their hands after defecation or urination and before meals. 
  • Towels must not be shared.
  • Institutions, particularly schools, should be encouraged to use liquid soap and disposable towels or air hand dryers. 

2. Disposal of excreta and soiled materials

  • At home, patients should normally use a flush toilet. 
  • If the toilet has a lid it should be placed down, covering the toilet before it is flushed. 
  • If urinals or bedpans have to be used attendants should, if possible, wear disposable plastic gloves and wash their hands thoroughly after attending the patient. 
  • Soiled clothing and bed linen should be washed in a domestic washing machine with a "hot cycle". 
  • If the amount of soiling makes this impractical, as much faecal material as possible should be flushed away in running water, into the toilet bowl if possible. 
  • Further soaking in disinfectant before washing, to reduce contamination is not generally considered necessary. 

3. Disinfection 

  • Toilet seats, flush handles, wash-hand basin taps, and toilet door handles should be cleaned daily, or more often, depending on how often they are used. 
  • Toilet seats should be wiped after use with household detergent solution and a sanitising solution - such as bleach based household cleaner, diluted according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Alternatively, alcohol based wipes may be used on seats and other hard services. 
  • Bedpans and urinals should be empties into the toilet bowl, and then washed with a disinfectant and rinsed. 

These precautions are especially important in schools, nursery schools, and residential institutions. 

4. Education

  • Everyone should be instructed in personal hygiene, and in the hygiene preparation and serving of food.
  • This teaching should be reinforced in those suffering from or who are contacts of patients with intestinal infections. 

Attendance at work / school 

  • As a general rule, people with gastroenteric symptoms (diarrhoea and / or vomiting) should always stay away from work or school (including nursery) whilst they are affected with the symptoms and for a further 48 hours after the symptoms have ceased. 
  • In certain cases (where the cause of the infection is particularly infectious or serious germ) it may be necessary for people in certain jobs (e.g. food handlers, health care workers) and younger school children stay off work or school for longer than this/ In these circumstances it would probably be necessary to provide stool (faeces) specimens. 


  • Keep perishable food refrigerated (below 8 °C)
  • Cook food thoroughly 
  • Keep raw meat and poultry away from other foods
  • Wash your hands after handling raw meat or poultry 
  • Do not eat raw or partially cooked egg dishes
  • Wash hands after visiting the toilet 
  • Wash hands after coming into contact with pets and other animals 

More Information

Do not hesitate to contact your GP if you are worried or you would like more advice on what to do. 



Last Updated on Wednesday, January 3, 2024