Nigel French

Nelson Mail - - CATALYST -

It’s not just about wa­ter. Mem­bers of the NZ and in­ter­na­tional wa­ter as­so­ci­a­tions are meet­ing in Hamil­ton this week to un­pick what hap­pened in Have­lock North to cause the world’s worst recorded wa­ter-borne out­break of campy­lobac­ter in­fec­tion.

A year ago, the aquifer Have­lock North draws on was con­tam­i­nated with fae­cal mat­ter from sheep fol­low­ing heavy rain.

A guest speaker at the meet­ing is Steve Hrudey from the Univer­sity of Al­berta, who will re­count the anal­o­gous ex­pe­ri­ences of Walk­er­ton, On­tario, where, in May 2000, sev­eral thou­sand people be­came ill from con­tam­i­na­tion of their wa­ter sup­ply with harm­ful strains of E coli, and campy­lobac­ter. Seven died.

The out­break in Have­lock North showed New Zealan­ders just how nasty campy­lobac­ter in­fec­tion can be, es­pe­cially for the el­derly and people with com­pro­mised im­mune sys­tems. The deaths of two, and pos­si­bly three, people were linked to this out­break, and three were hos­pi­talised with the paralysing neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der, Guil­lainBarre syn­drome. Some of the con­se­quences do not ap­pear in black and white statis­tics. For ex­am­ple, one el­derly woman who was man­ag­ing well liv­ing in her own home had to go into a rest home fol­low­ing in­fec­tion. For her it was life-chang­ing.

The Have­lock North in­ci­dent landed us in the global in­fec­tious disease record books. Hope­fully the lessons will be taken. There’s a clear need to en­sure that all our drink­ing wa­ter sup­plies are ad­e­quately pro­tected, us­ing wellestab­lished and safe meth­ods such as chlo­ri­na­tion.

New Zealand has one of the high­est rates of re­ported campy­lobac­ter in­fec­tions among OECD coun­tries, and much of this

Campy­lobac­ter is nasty and poul­try is the most com­mon source of in­fec­tion. Pro­tect your­selves, write


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