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New Zealand Successfully Reduces Campylobacter Rates

After seeing a spike in Campylobacter illnesses, New Zealand has largely been able to sustain lower rates of these infections. But this feat has not been easy for the southern part of the island.

One of the most common pathogens in the country, Campylobacter most recently peaked in New Zealand six years ago in 2006, but then it declined by 54 percent for an annual campylobacteriosis rate of 161.5 per 100,000 people two years later in 2008.

That was a dramatic drop-off from the 2006 peak of 380 per 100,000.

Now the rate has ticked up to 170 per 100,000 with higher rates being experienced in the Southern part of the country at 215.4.

Dr. John Holmes, chief medical officer for the Southern District Health Board, told the Otago Daily News that he thinks this higher rate has to do with higher rates caused by the fact there are more rural areas in the South.

“One reason for these higher rates may be may be that rural people tend to have more contact with animals, which are a major source of infection, ” said Holmes. “Many households in rural areas are also on untreated water supplies, which are a major sure of infection.”

Current levels are well below those experienced during the peak years, which caused New Zealand to launch a multifaceted campaign to reduce campy incidents in the country.

Campylobacteryosis is one of the most commonly reported gastrointestinal diseases in New Zealand. It typically results in muscle pain, headache, and fever.  It then develops into watery or bloody diarrhea.

In about 13 percent of the New Zealand campy cases, hospitalization is required. After recovery, a possibility exists that victims of “Campy” may later develop complications such as arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome or Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

New Zealand’s peak before 2006 came in 1998 when it hit 320 cases per 100,000 before dropping off to 223.8 per 100,000 the following year.

The country has focused on Campy prevention and control strategies ever since, with an emphasis on poultry. Strategies for combating campylobacter in broiler chickens have been adopted as world standards by such the International Codex Committee on Food Hygiene.

Some recent Campy outbreaks from the files of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and conclusions reached about them include:

– Chicken livers: 12 cases, control point failure, inadequate cooking

– Water: 19 ceases, control point failure, breakdown in chlorination of town water supply

– Water: 67 cases, control point failure, unsafe water supply

– Garlic butter: 30 cases (4 hospitalized), control point failure, inadequate heat treatment

– Milk: 23 cases, control failure, unpasteurized milk

– Tuna salad: 79 cases (39 treated by infirmary), control point failure, cross contamination

– Cucumber: 78 cases, control point failure, cross contamination

– Water:  257 cases, control point failure, un-chlorinated water

– Stir-friend chicken: 12 cases (1 hospitalized), control measure failure, inadequate heat treatment

According to NZFSA, one study identified “recent consumption of raw or undercooked chicken, and eating chicken in restaurants to be associated with (the) disease, and there was also an association with recent overseas travel, rainwater as source of water at home, consumption of raw dairy products and contact with puppies and cattle particularly calves.”

NZFSA says spring and summer are peaking seasons for Campy.

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