NZ parents warned about dangerous E. coli

According to the New Zealand Herald, Taranaki District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Jonathan Jarman has started to raise awareness about Shiga toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) after research found the number of cases in the area was increasing but few people knew about it.

The research, by a medical student last year, found most cases were in children under the age of five who had been exposed to farm animals in the week prior to the onset of illness, Jarman said. Almost half the people affected were hospitalised and one in 10 people developed a life-threatening complication – hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Jarman said STEC, also known as verotoxin E.coli, was an organism carried in the intestines of cattle and other farm animals but the study found that virtually no one in the farming sector had heard about it.

“STEC is twice as common as leptospirosis which everyone knows about,” he said. “It’s a type of E.coli that produces a toxin and it can be quite serious in humans.”

It caused a severe gastrointestinal illness and was mainly a problem in areas where there was a lot of dairy farming and was most common around calving season.

The strain was first detected in humans in New Zealand in 1993, Jarman said. Last year there were 14 cases in Taranaki and so far this year there had been six.

No one had died from it in Taranaki but there had been deaths in other parts of the country.

ESR public health physician Jill Sherwood said there had been no increase in the number of STEC cases nationally. There were 205 reported last year and 125 so far this year.

Jarman distributed information to local organisations as well as a couple of national ones such as the Ministry for Primary Industries in his mission to raise awareness. The message had gone out to early learning centre in Taranaki and spread to other centres including some in Auckland.

“It is a very contagious disease. It’s quite easy to pick up. For that reason when we are notified about cases

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A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here.