MEDIA RELEASES

Spring brings stomach bugs to Northland

“Northland is currently experiencing higher numbers of campylobacter, toxic E. Coli (VTEC) and other gastrointestinal diseases. These infections tend to have seasonal peaks and numbers are usually higher in spring and summer.

However current numbers are meeting historical threshold limits” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Clair Mills.

Some gastrointestinal infections such as campylobacter and VTEC are commonly associated with contact with farm animals. People who live in rural areas or work on farms, or have tank water supplies, are at higher risk of infection.

Young children and infants are especially vulnerable to infection and are also more likely to become dehydrated quickly of they get diarrhoea and vomiting. In children VTEC can also cause severe kidney damage.

“This year we have also seen some cases of campylobacter associated with drinking raw milk. Many people who drink raw milk are not fully aware of the risks, and don’t realise that raw (unpasteurised) milk has not been treated to destroy harmful bacteria like TB or campylobacter.”

“Raw milk is especially risky for young children and infants, pregnant women, and for people who are immuno-supressed, such as those on cancer treatment.”

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries recommends that those more at risk do not consume raw milk.

“I also recommend that if people choose to buy raw milk they do so within the current regulations - that is, directly from the farm gate, and a maximum of 5 litres.” said Dr Mills.

“Raw milk should also be kept refrigerated and boiled until bubbles appear before consumption.”
From March 2016, farmers will need to meet tighter regulations on production, hygiene requirements, milk testing and labelling in order to sell raw milk to consumers - but they will also be able to sell an unlimited volume and direct to consumers via home deliveries, not just at the farm gate.


What to do

You can contact Public Health at Northland DHB if you have concerns about food-related illness. Please call the Northland DHB switchboard (09 4304100) and ask to speak to the Health Protection Officer on call.

See your family doctor if vomiting and diarrhoea persists more than 24 hrs, especially if it affects young children.

You can also call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 24 hours a day for medical advice.


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