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Cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Napier and Hastings

More than 40 people in Hawke’s Bay have been diagnosed with Cryptosporidium (Crypto) infection since the beginning of this year prompting public health officials to warn people of the outbreak and to see their doctor if they have symptoms.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s .Medical Officer of Health Nicholas Jones said 45 people had been diagnosed with the infection, which was caused by a parasite found in the gut of cattle and other animals. The parasite was passed on to humans through contact with animals, contaminated water or food or through direct contact with human waste such as when changing nappies.

“Some people can have a very mild illness but it can be nasty. The disease usually causes diarrhoea however children may go off their food and vomit before the diarrhoea starts. Diarrhoea is often watery and tends to be accompanied by stomach cramps. Symptoms can come and go but have usually stopped within four weeks. In rare cases when a person’s immune system is very weak the disease can go on longer and cause complications," Dr Jones said.

Anyone with symptoms should visit their doctor, drink plenty of fluids, follow doctors instructions and return to the doctor especially if a child or adult was not drinking or symptoms persisted or worsened.

Dr Jones said the Health Protection team was analysing information from all cases to establish whether there was a common source of the outbreak, but so far it looked like there was more than one source.

“We had a slightly higher number of cases than usual in spring, which is when we see infection associated with calving and lambing. Since then case numbers went back to normal and didn’t increase again until after the New Year. Now it looks like the disease could be spreading through swimming pools, day care centres or untreated drinking water. “

All doctors have been alerted to the outbreak and the DHB is working with council staff and swimming pool operators to ensure pool treatment systems are operating effectively, Dr Jones said.

“Swimming pool contamination is a worry as one of the problems with Crypto is that it is not easily killed by chlorine. This means that unless a pool has a fine filter that can remove the cysts they can stay in a pool for weeks. For this reason it is vital that people with diarrhoea stay out of pools. The Ministry of Health recommends anyone diagnosed with Crypto stay away from pools for at least two weeks.”

Dr Jones said crypto could spread easily within child day care centres and households so good hand washing was essential to stop the spread and parents needed to keep their children away from school or day care centre if they had any tummy upsets.

“We know it is difficult for working parents but we ask that children are kept away for at least 48 hours after the symptoms subside.”

Cases have occurred throughout Napier and Hastings districts but there was no sign that city water supplies were causing any problem. The public health unit would continue to work closely with Napier and Hastings water operators to completely rule this out, he said.

More information on cryptosporidium is available on http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases...