Source: Stuff, 1 Spetember 2016
A link between sick calves and rising cases of a
potentially fatal childhood disease has been confirmed by a
Taranaki medical student during her summer break.
Research carried out by Claire Richardson has shown that contact
with young calves is a major risk factor for a type of E.coli
bacteria linked to bloody diarrhoea and other symptoms in
"The thing that's striking about it is that in
Taranaki most of the 67 cases over the last 10 years were
children aged between one and four who had been in contact
with farm animals," said Richardson, whose research findings were
published on Wednesday in the New Zealand Public Health
Now farming families are being warned to keep children away from
sick cattle to avoid
contracting Verotoxin Eshcerichia coli (VTEC).
The disease, which was first seen in New Zealand in 1993, has
been increasing over the past decade and Taranaki has one
of the highest rates in New Zealand, Taranaki medical
officer of health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, said.
The majority of cases in Taranaki happened in winter and
spring, which coincides with calving season.
Nearly half of all cases were admitted to hospital and
five required dialysis and treatment in
Starship Hospital, Auckland, after developing kidney
"We want to turn the curve on this disease. Our aim is to
reduce the number of farm kids catching VTEC and
developing complications which often require dialysis," Jarman
It was important parents kept youngsters away from scouring
made sure children washed their hands after
helping on the farm or touching animals, he
The Taranaki District Health Board will have a
public information campaign in place before the next calving
season and will also be
educating doctors around the region on diagnosing and
treating the disease.
It is also planning to work with the farming community
to reduce the VTEC infection rate in farm animals.
Richardson, whose family farms at Tataraimaka, is in
her fourth year studying medicine through Otago
She said she was surprised how little known the disease was,
even though there were more cases
of VTEC than leptosporosis.
"They asked me to go home and talk to people and see if
people knew about VTEC. Talking to different family
friends, all farming related people, the main comment they had
was that VTEC was a Honda car transmission.
"A few people had heard of it but they didn't really
know about it."
The message was particularly important to her because
she had many cousins and friends who lived on farms and had young
children, she said.
"VTEC in Taranaki is more common than leptosporosis,
but everyone knows about lepto, so that's the scary point
- people know about these other bugs, it would be good to know
about this as well."
VTEC can be carried by animals who show no symptoms
and can also be present in sheep and goats.
Other areas with higher-than-average numbers
were Northland, Waikato, and South Canterbury.