A waterborne outbreak of campylobacteriosis in the South Island of New Zealand due to a failure to implement a multi-barrier approach

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Outbreaks of waterborne gastroenteritis continue to occur in developed countries. Darfield, a rural town in the South Island of New Zealand experienced an outbreak of campylobacteriosis following a transgression of Escherichia coli on 16 August 2012. A descriptive outbreak investigation was performed. As a result, 29 cases had a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of campylobacteriosis and 138 were identified as probable cases. Heavy rains, contamination of water with animal effluent from nearby paddocks and failures in the treatment of drinking water led to pathogens being distributed through the town's water supply. A multi-barrier approach is advocated to ensure the quality of water and many countries have legislation or programmes to address this. Although legislation for water safety plans based on a multi-barrier approach is in place in New Zealand, at the time of the outbreak it was not a requirement for the Darfield water supply. In addition, despite the awareness of the importance of a multi-barrier approach, competing interests, including those from the agricultural industry and financial restraints on water suppliers, can prevent it from being implemented. Governments need to be more willing to enforce legislation and standards to protect the public from waterborne disease.

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