FRESH fruit and vegetables are helping to spread the winter vomiting bug after scientists discovered they have been fertilised with infected water.
THE findings include raspberries, lettuce, blueberries and strawberries.
The scare over the winter vomiting bug comes after one person died, and four children and 10 adults have been admitted to hospital critical care units because of the flu outbreak.
Today consumers were being urged to wash all fresh fruit and vegetables after it was discovered that water carrying the vomiting bug was being used to dilute fertilisers, which were then being sprayed on to the fresh produce.
There were 487 confirmed cases of the winter vomiting bug here in the first eight months of the year – up almost one third from the same period last year, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Researchers in the Netherlands found that lettuce and soft berries, such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, were particularly susceptible.
They found that when food was eaten raw and shortly after harvest "the viruses present on the produce are likely to remain infectious until consumption".
Meanwhile, hospitals are also trying to cope with an increase in flu cases, which have trebled over the same period compared to last year.
In addition to last month's fatality and 14 critical cases, HPSC figures reveal that 32 children were admitted to critical care units with respiratory suncytial virus (RSV) – a severe infection of the upper respiratory tract that particularly hits young children.
Flu cases for the first eight weeks of this year totalled 680, compared to just 227 for the same period last year.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin has imposed restrictions to just one visitor per patient, and only between the hours of 6pm and 8pm because of a flu outbreak at the hospital.