Darfield tummy bug worsens

04:07, Aug 24 2012
Dr Alistair Humphrey
ALISTAIR HUMPHREY: The whole community from young babies to the elderly have been affected.

More than 110 people have been struck down by gastroenteritis in the Darfield area after drinking contaminated water.

The notifications come one week after the Selwyn District Council issued a boil-water notice after E. coli was found in some parts of the Waimakariri River.

Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey today said six cases had been confirmed as campylobacter, a food and waterborne disease that causes vomitting and diarrhoea.

Yesterday, there had been 19 notifications. Today, there had been more than 110.

''It's a pretty big increase and it's a fairly major waterborne outbreak,'' Humphrey said.

He said all notifications had come from the Darfield Medical Centre and the outbreak was ''highly concentrated'' in and around the township.


The water supply was the ''main suspect''.

He said stomach cramps, vomitting and diarrhoea were affecting the whole community.

''Children who are only a few months old up to people in their 70s and 80s have been affected.''

He said E. coli was an indicator for contaminated water but it was likely other organisms, including campylobacter, would be identified.

About 30 residents attended a public meeting at Darfield High School last night to talk about the situation.

Humphrey said there had not been a waterborne outbreak of this scale since 2008, when residents of Springston became unwell after drinking contaminated water.

The council issued a boil-water notice last Friday after water samples tested positive for E.coli. The notice was removed on Tuesday but some residents say they had still not been told about the infected water supply.

The council this week acknowledged there had been some problems with mail delivery.

In June, the council reverted to its river supply because of a pump failure with its deep-bore well.

Heavy rain over the past few weeks had not helped the situation, council utilities officer Lisa Duder said.

At the start of the week, the Darfield high and primary schools were repoting increased absences because of ''stomach bugs''.

Humphrey reminded unwell residents to keep hydrated and rest.

To stop it spreading:

- Wash your hands after toileting, before eating, after changing nappies, before and after preparing food, and after touching pets or animals. Use soap and water, wash hands for 20 seconds and dry hands for 20 seconds.

- if sick, do not prepare food for others and stay off school or work

- use bleach to clean up vomit or faeces and throw away the cloth afterwards

Go to the doctor if:

- A baby is unable to keep anything down for eight hours (young babies and children can become dehydrated after 12 hours).

- a child aged over 18 months is unable to keep anything down for 24 hours

- someone has diarrhoea and vomiting but is unable to drink anything

- there is blood in the patient's vomit or faeces

- there has been no improvement after six hours for babies, 12 hours for children and 24 hours for adults.

- there are signs of dehydration (dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes, cold hands and feet, hard to wake up or very small urine output).

The Press