A timely reminder of the importance of good hand hygiene
following an increase in the number of cases of
gastrointestinal infections, in particular Cryptosporidium,
E. Coli O157 (VTEC), Campylobacter, and other diseases in
Cryptosporidium is a parasite found in the
gut of humans and animals, symptoms include diarrhoea,
nausea and stomach pain, and sometimes vomiting and
Symptoms will usually appear within seven days
of exposure but can occur anywhere from one to 12 days.
People become infected from ingesting the parasite from
contact with animals’ faecal matter, by drinking
contaminated water or touching their mouths with
Complications of cryptosporidium
disease are rare, but it is unpleasant, and the parasite can
be easily spread.
VTEC (Verocytotoxin –producing
E.coli) can make people very sick, with symptoms that
vary for each person but often include severe stomach
cramps, diarrhoea (often bloody), and vomiting.
there is fever, it usually is not very high (less than
38.5C). Most people get better within 5–7 days. Some
infections are very mild, but others can be accompanied by
complications that can be severe or even
Campylobacteriosis, is another
enteric infection caused by a bacteria called
Campylobacter, which produces an illness of variable
severity with symptoms of abdominal pain, fever and watery
diarrhoea, sometimes including bloody stools.
infected most often by ingestion of contaminated food,
typically undercooked poultry or unpasteurised milk.
Cross-contamination from raw meat to other foodstuffs may
occur via hands, utensils, chopping boards or incorrect
In New Zealand, consumption of faecally
contaminated water and direct contact with farm or domestic
animals are common routes of transmission.
usually see more cases this time of year as lambing and
calving can increase people’s exposure to this protozoa
and other bacteria which can cause gastroenteritis-type
illnesses,” said Dr. Ankush Mittal, Medical Officer of
“The best way to avoid illness is good hand
hygiene practices, involving washing your hands with soap
and water for 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly with a
clean towel. This is especially important after working with
animals, and before eating.
“Anyone working with
livestock should change out of their work clothes before
going about routine family or non-farm related
Those infected with
Cryptosporidium, VTEC, or Campylobacter should
stay away from work, school and preschool until symptom-free
for 48 hours to reduce the risk of spreading the infection
and should avoid using public swimming pools for two weeks
after the symptoms have gone.
with fluids and any medications prescribed by a GP or health
professional is the recommended management. While most
people infected with any of these diseases recover without
intervention, recovery can take weeks. Patients are advised
to seek further medical advice if not
“We need to focus on preventing the
spread of these organisms and we encourage everyone to be
vigilant about hand-washing as the best way to help prevent
the spread of the disease.”
To reduce the risk of
infection with these organisms:
• You should assume
that all cattle, sheep and goats are infected, even if the
animals look clean and healthy.
• You can pick up
VTEC and other organisms by touching animals, fences and
other surfaces and accidentally transferring the bacteria to
• Children, especially those under 5,
are particularly vulnerable to gastrointestinal infections
and are more likely to suffer very serious illness as a
• Washing your hands thoroughly with soap
and water will reduce the chance of infection, in particular
after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before
preparing or eating food.
• Remember to wash your
hands after touching an animal, before eating or drinking,
and after removing clothing and shoes worn on the
• Children should be closely supervised to
ensure that they wash their hands properly after contact
• Cook meats thoroughly. Minced meat
and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to
a temperature of at least 70C. It’s best to use a
thermometer, as colour is not a very reliable indicator of
• Avoid raw milk, unpasteurized
dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple
• Prevent cross contamination in food
preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters,
cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw
• Avoid swallowing water when swimming or
playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and
backyard “kiddie” pools.
For further information
on the above illnesses you can contact the on-call Health
Protection Officer at Ngā Tai Ora on (09)
It is springtime, and
once again we are noticing a seasonal increase in several
infectious gastrointestinal illnesses. This increase is
especially noticeable in people that live rurally and in
particular those that are involved in the rearing of calves
and lambs. These illnesses are also associated with
contaminated drinking water and with unpasteurised milk.
Illnesses that increase at this time of year include
Cryptosporidiosis, VTEC (toxin producing E.coli) and
These illnesses are commonly
associated with symptoms of diarrhoea and fever. Illness may
often be mild but unpleasant. However, in some cases, and
especially in children and the elderly, the illness may be
Hand washing is a great way of reducing the
risk of picking up one of these illnesses at any time.
Thorough hand washing for 20 seconds using soap should be
carried out after dealing with animals, before preparing
food or eating and after going to the toilet.
should be dried well on a clean towel after washing.
Particular attention should be given to ensuring that
children also have their hands washed at these times. If
clothing becomes soiled this should be removed before
entering the home and hands washed after removing
If you would like further information on these
illnesses, please contact the on-call Health Protection
Officer on (09)