SRS joins the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) in highlighting the importance of environmental health
Launched to coincide with World Environmental Health day, CIEH’s “What is Environmental Health?” campaign looks to promote the work of EHPs across a range of vital policy areas such as food safety, environmental protection, housing standards and public health.
The work of EHPs to safeguard human health and wellbeing is often overlooked which is why this campaign focuses on the stories of real EHPs. It showcases the meaningful role that they play in protecting the public, as well as their inspirations and passion. So, we have decided to let our officers tell their stories aboiut the vital role they play in protecting the public. We start this week with a Jennifer Goddard, a member of our Communicable Disease and Health & Safety team:
How long have you been a Commercial Services Technical Officer?
11 years. I began working as a Technical Officer in Cardiff Council in 2008.
Tell us more about your job
I investigate cases and outbreaks of infectious diseases, mainly those associated with gastrointestinal infections that are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E.coli, Cryptosporidium and Norovirus. Typical symptoms for these pathogens are diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. I identify what caused the illness, to prevent the spread of infection and offer advice.
What appealed to you about this line of work?
Micro-organisms are fascinating, I have been interested in them for quite some time and in 2003 I completed a degree in Applied Microbiology. I had previously worked in university research labs and I was keen to try something a bit different that also involved interacting and helping members of the public. Investigating food poisoning and other infectious diseases seemed like an ideal opportunity for me to do this.
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy the challenge of identifying what organism or activity has caused a person to become unwell and preventing onward spread of illness. The conversations I have whilst talking to people who have tested positive for an infectious disease are often very positive. People are happy to talk to me about their illness and are very grateful for the knowledge and advice I have shared with them.
What is the worst thing that you have seen in your years in Environmental Health?
I have to interview people suffering with food poisoning and other illnesses and this sometimes involves visiting them in hospital. Seeing someone extremely ill in hospital is not particularly pleasant, especially when it is a young child, but the investigation still needs to be done. Sometimes, the case is so ill that next of kin has to be interviewed on their behalf.
Can you offer any words of wisdom to a food business when it comes to infection control?
Businesses should ensure that their staff sickness policy is adequate and adhered to by all staff, who should not return to work until they have been 48 hours clear of any diarrhea or vomiting symptoms. Relapse of symptoms is common and should this happen in the workplace, (even in the toilet), the risk of an outbreak is increased.
What is the most rewarding aspect of the job?
The knowledge that by doing my job, I am protecting the health of the public is very rewarding, however the gratitude of people when I explain their illness, the causes and preventative measures is equally as rewarding.
Any tips for those thinking of setting up a food business?
Learn about food poisoning pathogens, especially those that are typically associated with the foods that you are selling and the processes that you are using to produce your food. For example, not many people know that Hepatitis A virus can be contracted from eating unwashed fruit that has been imported from countries where the virus is endemic. Ensure that you and your staff are adequately trained to carry out their jobs safely.
Keep an eye on Twitter for more Q&A's with our officers over the next few weeks!