New Zealand: Source of salmonella outbreak stumps officials

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By KIM THOMAS - The Press | Thursday, 04 December 2008

A national outbreak of a "potent" and rare type of salmonella has health officials puzzled.

Since mid-October, 36 cases of salmonella typhimurium phage type 42 have been reported nationwide, with 16 of them in Canterbury.

Environmental Science and Research started a national investigation about a week ago, with public health units and the Food Safety Authority trying to identify the source of the bacteria.

The source is likely to be some form of food product.

Most of the Canterbury people hit by the nasty bug are female, with many children and middle-aged women succumbing.

Ministry of Health chief adviser of population Greg Simmons said the outbreak was a "significant" one.

There have been 16 confirmed cases of type 42 in Christchurch, nine in Dunedin five in Nelson, two in Auckland and one each in Greymouth, Rotorua, Whakatane and Waikato.

There were 15 cases of type 42 last year and 28 in 2006.

Simmons said babies, the elderly and the immune compromised may become severely dehydrated.

Scientists would interview a random sample of infected people to try to find out where they caught the bug, Canterbury District Health Board medical officer of health Ramon Pink said.

At least five people nationwide had needed hospital treatment.




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