x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Girl dies as family comes down with food poisoning

A four-year-old girl has died after her whole family suffers an attack of suspected food poisoning.

SHARJAH // A four-year-old girl has died and her brother is in hospital after the whole family suffered an attack of what doctors believe was severe food poisoning. The girl, named as Marwa Faisal, died in Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah yesterday morning, less than an hour after being admitted. Marwa was rushed to hospital with her father K Faisal, mother Shabana and brother Afras, aged eight. All were vomiting violently. The parents were discharged later in the day but last night Afras was still in hospital.

Dr Fatima Ibrahim, the medical director of Al Qassimi, said the boy was improving, though when he was admitted his condition had been critical. "They arrived here early in the morning and we gave them immediate treatment. However, the girl died within 55 minutes of reaching the hospital." According to family members and hospital staff, the symptoms had started during the night, with all four feeling unwell and unable to keep any food down.

They went to a private clinic where they were promptly referred to Al Qassimi. "All four were displaying similar symptoms, which is why we suspect it is a case of food poisoning. However, we will have to wait for the reports to come out to know for certain," Dr Ibrahim said. The case has been referred to the Ministry of Health for further investigation. Relatives who had visited them on the day they fell ill said the family had not eaten or done anything unusual.

"Things were normal until the evening but I understand that they all became very sick in the night," said K Ansari, Mr Faisal's brother. He said the family had ordered breakfast from a restaurant near their home, eating Indian dosas and some paratha. "The lunch was fish and rice and they had the same for dinner," said Mr Ansari, who was with the family in the afternoon. Dr Ibrahim said: "We know from the history of the family that they had eaten fish in the night. It can be suspected that the fish may have been toxic."

She said the intense summer heat could often affect fish, meat and other foods. Now the family plan to return to India to complete the last rites for Marwa. They are even thinking of leaving the UAE permanently, relatives said. The girl was known as a playful child and had been excited about starting school two months ago. She had been enrolled for kindergarten at the New Indian Model School in Sharjah.

Her brother is studying at Our Own English School, which is also in Sharjah. The incident comes just a day after Sharjah officials launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of food poisoning. The municipality said it had begun inspections of food retailers to stop the common practice of turning off refrigerators at night. It said many supermarkets and grocery stores did this to save power, but it was a common cause of food poisoning, particularly in the summer months.

The authorities also plan to keep records of food poisoning cases in the Emirates in an effort to track common causes and reduce the number of cases.