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Concern at increase in campylobacter infection

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is concerned about the continuing increase in cases of human campylobacter infection, highlighted in the latest monthly surveillance report from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.

Campylobacter is a bacterium commonly found in animals and the environment. Since being made a notifiable disease in 1980, New Zealand's reported cases of campylobacteriosis have risen steadily and health professionals acknowledge it as a major public health concern.

The source or sources of the latest rise in numbers are not clear and are the subject of investigations being undertaken by ESR. However, any increase in cases of the disease also increases the potential for contamination of food to occur from infected individuals, particularly in the home.

A report recently commissioned by NZFSA and completed by ESR, Transmission routes for Campylobacteriosis in New Zealand, is helping NZFSA scientists to develop a computer-based risk assessment model that will evaluate all the steps in the food chain, up to the point of consumption, so that NZFSA risk managers can work out where best to intervene in food production processes to effectively reduce incidents of the illness.

NZFSA also reminds people that there are things they can do to help reduce the risk of infection. Two of the most important of these are to follow the 4Cs rule - clean, cook, cover, chill - and the 20+20 hand wash rule. NZFSA recommends washing your hands, using plenty of soap, for at least 20 seconds. Rinse them well and dry them for a further 20 seconds using a clean dry hand towel or disposable paper towel (the 20+20 rule).

Keep hand towels only for hands, or use paper towels - don't use the tea towel that is used to dry dishes. Use a fresh hand towel daily (or change it more often if it is wet).

Wash and dry your hands:

- before and after preparing food
- after handling raw meat and chicken (before you handle any other foods, or before you touch your face, mouth or eyes)
- after going to the toilet, helping a child to go to the toilet, or changing a baby's nappy
- after touching pets or farm animals
- after blowing or touching your nose, sneezing into your hand or touching your hair or your mouth while preparing food
- after gardening
- after handling rubbish.

The 4Cs and 20+20 rule are easy ways to remember the health-preserving basics of good food handling.

For more information on hand washing and safe food handling, check out NZFSA's website: www.nzfsa.govt.nz or visit the Foodsafe Partnership website: www.foodsafe.org.nz.


ENDS

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