Image: AP (Representative)
The cause of the 2022 typhoid outbreak among asylum seekers living on a ship in the Netherlands has been traced to raw sewage which was connected to fresh drinking water. According to The Guardian, the sewage in question was connected to tanks of freshwater used for drinking and cooking within the ship, making it a major source of the outbreak. During the spring of last year, a total of 72 cases of the highly contagious disease were confirmed. The outbreak took place on the Liberty Ann, which is an old cruise ship that was being used as emergency accommodation in Haarlem. The details of the outbreak emerged this week ahead of the opening of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Copenhagen. The opening is scheduled for April 15 this year.
According to The Guardian, the delegations at the summit will hear a full report of the investigation into the outbreak that eventually led to 25 people being hospitalised. Dr Anne de Vries of the investigators at the municipal health service in Haarlem revealed that the fresh water and the wastewater tanks on the ship shared a common wall which was severely corroded and had small holes. “This allowed sewage containing Salmonella typhi, the bacterium which causes typhoid fever, to leak into the tank containing fresh water, which was then used to drink and prepare food,” Vries asserted. While with the advancement of medicines, typhoid is curable, it can be proven to be lethal without proper treatment.
On April 6 2022, the municipal health service in Kennemerland notified the authorities about the ongoing typhoid outbreak on the Liberty Ann ship. The authorities took the matter into consideration and bottled water was provided along with food preparation on the ship which was halted at a Dutch coast. Later, the asylum seekers were moved to other accommodations. 25 people were hospitalised immediately and all of the managed to recover after treatment.
The municipal health service inspected the ship six times to carry out the investigation whose reports were released this week. “A large outbreak of typhoid fever in the Netherlands was caused by sewage water containing Salmonella typhi leaking into a freshwater tank,” the report stated. "Strict supervision of water quality is key to the health and safety of those on board ships. Water tanks and associated equipment must be properly maintained and subject to regular inspections,” it further concluded as per the report by The Guardian.