Stomach bug lays 110 low in Darfield
CAROLINE KING AND GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Darfield teen Chloe Walker has had a bucket by her side for a week.
The 13-year-old is among more than 110 people to have been hit with gastroenteritis, a serious stomach illness, in the Darfield area after drinking contaminated water.
Chloe's family were using boiled water after a notice was issued by the Selwyn District Council. The council's warning came after E. coli was found in some parts of the local water supply.
However, on one occasion Chloe "forgot" to use boiled water. She drank a glass of tap water and used some to brush her teeth.
The next day, the Darfield High School student had a sore stomach.
Then, came the onslaught of vomiting and diarrhoea.
Brian Walker, Chloe's father, said when the vomiting hit she grabbed the first thing she could find in a "mad dash". It was a cake mixer.
Chloe said the stomach pains were soon crippling.
"I would pretty much be in tears with the pain because it was so bad. Every time I got the pain I'd get goose bumps and feel cold," she said.
She also suffered intense headaches and was "too scared" to eat.
Chloe's mother, Michelle Walker-Jones, bought some painkillers from the local pharmacy, where she works.
"[But] nothing was really helping me. I'd just had enough of it. I just wanted to go back to school," Chloe said.
Walker-Jones said the pharmacy had been inundated with people affected by gastro since Monday.
She had heard of one severe case in which a toddler had vomited every half hour for 40 hours.
Chloe said she did not go to a doctor for a few days, as at first her family thought it was just a "tummy bug" which would soon pass.
But it didn't; Chloe was sick and off school for almost a week.
Her tests from the doctor came back yesterday confirming she had campylobacter, a food and waterborne disease which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
As a result, Chloe was approached by the Canterbury District Health Board yesterday and took part in a survey on her habits over the past six weeks to help try to determine the cause of the Darfield outbreak.
A spokeswoman for Darfield Primary School said there had been "quite a lot" of pupils who had been away all week.
Darfield High School principal James Morris said Monday and Tuesday had seen the highest number of absences but "a fair amount" of staff and pupils were still unwell.
Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey said there had been a jump from 19 notifications from the Darfield Medical Centre, as of Thursday, to more than 110 yesterday.
He said the water supply was the "main suspect".
Humphrey said there had not been a waterborne outbreak of such scale since 2008, when residents of Springston became unwell after drinking contaminated water.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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