In an update on the gastrointestinal outbreak on the east coast of the New Zealand’s North Island, the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board reported today that some 200 people have sought medical attention for gastrointestinal illness.

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Hawke’s Bay Hospital now has 19 patients that have been admitted into hospital for further care and two people who remain in a critical condition in Intensive Care.

All of the results back from people who have the bug and who have been tested are positive for Campylobacter; however, the boil water notice will remain in place until officials are confident there is no other bug resistant to chlorination in the water, which is expected to take several days.

Hastings District Council would like to assure the community that water throughout the Flaxmere and Hastings areas is clear of any contaminants and these areas are isolated from the Havelock North water supply.

The chlorination of the Havelock North supply continue to eliminate the campylobacter bug.

All Havelock North schools will be closed Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 August.

What is Campylobacter? It is a bacterium that can also be found, with not quite the frequency as in chicken, in healthy cattle, birds, raw milk, and contaminated water. Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items. Infants may get the infection by contact with poultry packages in shopping carts. It is also possible to get infected from the feces of an infected pet cat or dog. It is the leading cause of bacterial diarrhea in the United States, more than Salmonella and Shigella combined.

It doesn’t take a lot of this organism to get you ill. In some studies it showed that as little as 500 organisms can cause disease in some individuals. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says that you can get infected from one drop of juice from raw chicken meat.

Campylobacter jejuni, the species most often implicated in infection causes diarrhea, which may be watery or sticky and can contain blood and white blood cells. Other symptoms often present are fever, abdominal pain, nausea, headache and muscle pain. The illness usually occurs 2-5 days after ingestion of the contaminated food or water. Illness generally lasts 7-10 days, but relapses are not uncommon (about 25% of cases).

There can be complications associated with campylobacteriosis; they include arthritis and neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome. It is estimated that the latter is seen in one out of every 1000 cases of Campylobacter.

Most cases of Campylobacter are self-limiting and do not require treatment. However severe cases can be treated with antibiotics to shorten the length of the disease.