Rise in cases of illness spurs warning

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 06:53 26/12/2012

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The number of people falling sick with campylobacter infections has risen sharply in Marlborough and Nelson.

Records show 85 notified cases of the illness in the region during the three months from September 1, which is more than double the 39 cases notified during the same period last year.

Campylobacteriosis is caused by ingesting a bacteria that lives in the gut of farm animals and pets.

There were no obvious links between the cases, said Nelson Marlborough medical officer of health Jill Sherwood.

It was likely several factors had contributed to the increase.

"Risk factors may include increased rainfall leading to runoff contaminating surface or well water, people not taking care with food preparation and perhaps not always washing their hands well after going to the toilet or after contact with animals."

Campylobacter is a bacteria that lives in the gut of animals, including poultry, sheep, cattle and domestic animals. Symptoms usually develop two to five days after the bacteria has been ingested and commonly include diarrhoea, which sometimes contains blood, abdominal pain that can be severe, fever, fatigue, nausea and sometimes vomiting.

The symptoms can last for seven to 10 days and relapses are not uncommon. Anyone with these symptoms should consult a doctor for advice, testing and treatment, Dr Sherwood said.

Data showed that 310 people in Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman had contracted campylobacteriosis during the 12 months to the end of November.

Nationally, there were 7293 cases of campylobacteriosis this year, compared with 6393 cases last year.

Dr Sherwood said the public needed to exercise care when preparing food. They also needed to wash their hands properly after using the toilet and after contact with animals.

People needed to remember the three Cs - clean, cook and chill - particularly during the barbecue season, she said. "Keeping raw and cooked food separate and ensuring meat products, especially poultry, are well cooked are key to preventing illness."


CAMPYLOBACTER

Ingestion of the bacteria can happen through:

Eating food or drinking water contaminated by the faeces of an infected animal or human.

Eating raw or undercooked meat or any ready-to-eat food contaminated with juice from raw meat.

Preparing raw meat products.

Contact with an infected animal or human.

Ways to prevent campylobacter:

Wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food.

Thoroughly cook meat, especially poultry.

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Do not prepare ready-to-eat foods after preparing raw meat without washing all utensils.

- The Marlborough Express

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