Safe food warning as tummy bug strikes

01:39, Dec 27 2012

An increase in the number of stomach-wrenching cases of campylobacter has health authorities warning about the need for hygiene and taking care with food preparation.

In Nelson and Marlborough, 85 cases have been notified during the past three months, compared with 39 cases during the same period last year.

Campylobacter is a contagious infection commonly picked up by eating or drinking contaminated food and water. It causes diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and sometimes vomiting.

"There are no obvious links between cases, and it is likely that a number of factors may have contributed to this increase," Nelson Marlborough Medical Officer of Health Jill Sherwood said.

"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 toileting or after contact with animals."

The increase reflects a national trend, with 7293 cases of campylobacteriosis notified in the year to November, with the rate up from 145 per 100,000 people to 165 per 100,000.


Over the past year, 310 people in Nelson and Marlborough contracted campylobacteriosis.

"The public need to exercise care when preparing food and remember the three Cs - clean, cook and chill - as well as being thorough about washing their hands before and after food preparation, after using the toilet and after contact with animals," said Dr Sherwood.

"Being mindful of the three Cs is particularly important during the barbecue season. Keeping raw and cooked food separate and ensuring meat products, especially poultry, are well cooked are key to preventing illness."

Campylobacter symptoms usually develop two to five days after the bacteria was ingested.

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

The best way to prevent campylobacter is good personal hygiene and safe food preparation, especially:

Washing hands after using the toilet.

Washing hands before eating or preparing food (particularly important after handling raw meat and poultry).

Thoroughly cooking meat products, and especially poultry.

Not preparing ready-to-eat foods after preparing raw meat products, unless hands, chopping boards, knives etc are thoroughly cleaned.


Campylobacter is a bacteria that lives in the gut of a number of animals, including poultry, sheep, cattle, and domestic pets.

A person can only become infected if they swallow the bacteria. Ingestion of the bacteria can happen in a number of ways, including:

- Eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected animal or human.

- Eating raw or undercooked meat, or any ready-to-eat food that has been contaminated with the juices from raw meat.

- From preparing raw meat products.

- Contact with an infected animal or human.