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ELEANOR HALL: Thousands of passengers who travelled on Virgin Blue flights earlier this year may
have been exposed to the bacteria listeria in the airline's food.

The airline and Queensland Health are both warning that it can take up to 70 days for someone
infected with listeria to develop symptoms of the infection, which include cramps and nausea.

Pregnant women in particular are at risk, and two women who are now known to have flown on affected
Virgin Blue flights went into premature labour after eating the airline's chicken sandwiches.

Barbara Miller reports:

BARBARA MILLAR: Under the heading "tummy tempters" Virgin Blue's on-flight menu offers chicken
wraps for $7.00.

But there's a potential problem for those who were tempted in at the least the months of May and

The airline, in co-operation with Queensland Health, is warning that the wraps were probably
contaminated with the bacteria listeria.

Heather Jeffery is a Virgin Blue spokeswoman.

HEATHER JEFFERY: Earlier this year, we had a very small number of people contact us to say they had
the tummy bug fever etc and when we noticed that, we conducted an immediate investigation back
through the supply chain.

BARBARA MILLAR: Shortly afterwards alarm bells began ringing at Queensland Health too.

Dr Aaron Groves the Department's acting Deputy Director-General spoke to ABC local radio in

AARON GROVES: What's happened was that we discovered late in July that we were having a little bit
more listeria in the country than we would normally get. We've had about as many cases in the first
six months as we would normally get in a year. And we started to go and talk to the people who had
listeria and see if there were some common trends amongst the people that had listeria.

What we then discovered late in July was that there was a link with Virgin Blue and Virgin Blue
worked very very closely with us to try and track down the reasons for that.

BARBARA MILLAR: Listeria infection is relatively rare, and may go unnoticed in many people.
Symptoms include fever, headaches, cramps, aches and pains, nausea and diarrhoea, and they can take
up to 70 days to develop. People with underlying health issues, and in particular pregnant women
are at risk.

And Queensland Health has told The World Today that two women who are now known to have flown on
affected Virgin Blue flights went into premature labour after subsequently falling ill. Both women
delivered healthy babies.

Virgin Blue says the wraps were served on thousands of flights from Brisbane and Coolangatta, along
the east coast of Australia and to New Zealand and Bali.

Wayne Loughnan is a supervisor in the coal mining industry who says he became ill at the end of
June after eating a chicken wrap on a Virgin Blue flight from Rockhampton to Brisbane.

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: Being a night flight, my wife and son picked me up from the airport. They drive
down from Noosa so I thought it saves us stopping somewhere to have something to eat, I'll have
something to eat on the plane so I ordered a chicken wrap and a bottle of water and...

BARBARA MILLAR: How much did that cost do you remember?

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: Ah, I think it was a $5 deal or a $7 deal or something like that.

BARBARA MILLAR: Did the chicken wrap taste good?

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: Hindsight tells me that it was actually, oh it was tasting good but it was actually
extra moist.

BARBARA MILLAR: Wayne Loughnan says the next day he became very ill.

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: I knew exactly that I had food poisoning.

BARBARA MILLAR: Why is that?

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: It just felt like food poisoning. I've had it once before a lot of years ago and
just with the stomach cramps, etc, it just felt like food poisoning. I'm no doctor but I self
diagnose myself reasonable well.

BARBARA MILLAR: And what made you think it was the chicken wrap?

WAYNE LOUGHNAN: Mainly because other than my cereal for my breakfast the next morning was all I
really had to eat because I finished work that day and I only really had cereal the previous
morning and then some dry food during the day. Some snacks.

BARBARA MILLAR: Because of the 70 day potential incubation period Virgin Blue and Queensland Health
are concerned that people who travelled in May and June may still become ill.

It is possible though that passengers who travelled on flights earlier this year were also

Various health authorities are now trying to pinpoint initial source of the contamination.

ELEANOR HALL: Barbara Miller reporting.