Between December 1997 and January 1998 an increase in the number of isolates of Salmonella enterica serovar Newport, a serotype rarely causing indigenous infections in Finland, was detected. This included two clusters of gastroenteritis following funeral meals. An inquiry via Enter-net revealed a concomitant increase in cases of S. Newport in the United Kingdom. To investigate the Finnish outbreak, a total of 56 S. Newport strains (22 from the outbreak period, 27 from pre- and post-outbreak period, and 7 from imported food producing animals) were studied by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE); selected isolates were also phage typed. Two retrospective questionnaire studies evaluating food exposures among the funeral attendants were conducted. All isolates from the clusters had an identical PFGE pattern which was also found in 13 infections temporally close to but not associated with the clusters. The Finnish outbreak was caused by the same phage type as the one in the United Kingdom. In both clusters, an epidemiological link between illness and exposure to cured ham was found. In conclusion, the outbreak was not limited to the two clusters but was more widely spread both in and outside Finland. Early alarm systems of food-borne outbreaks and collaboration between European countries are needed for investigating international outbreaks.
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