Source: Hawke's Bay Today, 26 Jan 2017
One of the largest gastro outbreaks in the country has given the
medical community the chance develop a better picture of the
long-term effects of campylobacter.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board medical officer of health Dr
Caroline McElnay said while Guillain Barre and reactive arthritis
were known complications of campylobacter the extent of these
complications was not well understood.
"There hasn't been a whole heap of research in this area. We,
unfortunately for the community, have now got an extensive number
of cases. So we've got the opportunity to look and see what the
complications are," she said.
"What we're doing now is really trying to complete to the whole
picture of campylobacter."
The HBDHB conducted surveys, which included questions about
complication symptoms, shortly after the outbreak was
Dr McElnay said the research was currently tracking in the range
of 4 per cent of people who may contract reactive arthritis as a
result of campylobacter; equating to 200 people if multiplied
across a sample size of 5000.
The research has also highlighted the severity of campylobacter
on the elderly.
"We're hearing that some of our elderly community have been,
after they've had campylobacter, have been just a little bit more
frailer. We're able to understand that a bit more and make sure
that the care and the services that those older people need to
maintain their wellness," she said.
Te Mata Peak Practice general practitioner Dr Peter Culham was
the GP rostered on the weekend of the 13th and 14th of August last
"From a GP perspective the learning for us is all based around
how we managed this I think, and how we managed to keep people out
of the hospital and deal with large amounts of people who had a
dreadful illness," he said.
Dr Culham said the practice's approach to the outbreak was
telephone consultations which proved to be safe, time-effective and
"We really can no longer have every single person in front of us
all the time and do the traditional consultation because there's
too many people and not enough doctors and this was a classic
example," he said.
Dr Culham said replacing face to face consultations with
telephone ones throughout the gastro outbreak proved "extremely
"The silver lining is that we can now disseminate this
information to other GP practices and primary care around the
country; that if they're ever faced with a similar situation then
telephone conversations are a way to go," he said.
Dr McElnay said the research will also contribute to informed
conversations around the cost of preventing another outbreak and
the cost of treating one.
"It's not just a couple of days off work and then people are
back and they're fully recovered. For some people it's been longer
and they've developed these sort of other symptoms. Again, the
percentages might be low but because we've got so many affected you
maybe have 200 people with reactive arthritis well what will the
cost of managing that arthritis be?" she said.
Dr McElnay said the research would "definitely" help communities
in New Zealand and around the world better understand the long-term
effects of campylobacter.
"While it won't be much relief to somebody who had been ill what
it does is it adds to the medical knowledge about diseases like
campylobacter and the consequences.. it actually confirms that we
need to do everything we can to prevent people from getting
campylobacter because it can be nasty and it can have long lasting
complications that affect the health of particularly our
more-vulnerable in the community. So we do need to take it
seriously," she said.
The research, which will be released in February this year, has
already conclusively said that water care is worth investing in, Dr
"It says at the end of the day that campylobacter is a serious
infection and we don't want it to happen. From a research point of
view and a health services point of view it really supports the
fact that it is worth investing in whatever way to you can to make
sure that people are protected from getting campylobacter," she