New data from Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) shows cases of gastroenteritis illnesses, such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, are increasing rapidly in the Auckland region this summer.
These illnesses are most commonly caused by contaminated food and water, and thrive in warmer temperatures. About half of all cases of Campylobacter are linked to chickens, which carry the bug in their gut and faeces.
ARPHS is currently being notified of more than 100 cases per week of gastroenteritis illnesses in the Auckland region. While numbers often spike in summer, ARPHS has seen a particularly rapid increase in Campylobacter, with numbers more than doubling in just the last two weeks.
Dr Jay Harrower from Auckland Regional Public Health Service commented:
“While these illnesses can be very serious, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting them. Most importantly chill, prepare and cover poultry properly: store it in containers, keep it chilled, defrost it thoroughly, keep it separate, cook it fully, and wash your hands regularly when preparing it. And avoid the common mistake of washing raw chicken – it’s a recipe for spreading and spraying the nasty bugs!”
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Campylobacter infection worldwide. Between 6,000 and 7,000 people are diagnosed with the infection each year according to National Episurv data, while it’s estimated thousands more are affected but do not seek medical help.
Symptoms of Campylobacter can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting, and these can last for a week or longer. Around 500 people are hospitalised each year as a result of the infection. While the vast majority of cases recover in full, in rare instances the infection can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its nerves, sometimes resulting in permanent paralysis.
To reduce the risk of getting gastroenteritis illnesses, NZ Food Safety recommends 10 top tips for kiwis:
While gastroenteritis illnesses are most commonly spread by food, cases also occur when people swim in contaminated water. This is why it’s important to check Safeswim every time you head to the beach, to make sure it’s safe before you go for a dip: www.safeswim.org.nz.
For more information on Campylobacter visit www.arphs.health.nz/public-health-topics/disease-and-illness/campylobacter/
For more information on food safety visit www.mpi.govt.nz/food-safety-home/preparing-and-storing-food-safely-at-home/clean-cook-chill/
For media enquiries contact arphsmedia [@] adhb.govt.nz.