26 Sep 2016

Warning about gastro bug risk in Southland

1:29 pm on 26 September 2016

The Southland District Health Board is urging people to be vigilant about washing their hands after working with animals due to a seasonal increase in gastro bug cases.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria

Campylobacter jejuni Photo: 123rf

Last month, thousands in the Hawke's Bay town of Havelock North became ill after the town's water supply became infected with campylobacter, believed to have come from ruminants.

A major risk factor for becoming infected with gastroenteritis is close contact with animals, particularly farm animals.

Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health Naomi Gough said the risk was particularly high at this time of year.

"With the calving and lambing season, we generally see an increase in gastroenteritis, particularly infections like giardia, campylobacter and cryptosporidium, and it usually affects rural populations where farmers are working with animals.

"For some people, it can be incredibly serious and so we do get some people hospitalised from time to time, particularly if they get severely dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhoea.

"The other issues for people who are working as food handlers, having a notifiable illness can mean some time off work."

Ms Gough said the best way to minimise getting and spreading the illness was washing hands thoroughly after working with animals and before eating or smoking.

If people became sick, they should stay away from work, school and pre-school until they had gone two days without symptoms, she said.