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Epidemiology of Campylobacter Gastroenteritis in New Zealand Children and the Effect of The Campylobacter Strategy

A 20-year Observational Study

Jeffs, Emma, MHealSc*; Williman, Jonathan, PhD; Martin, Natalie, DPhil*; Brunton, Cheryl, FAFPHM; Walls, Tony, MD*

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal: June 2019 - Volume 38 - Issue 6 - p 569–576
doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000002228
Original Studies

Background: Campylobacter species are a common cause of gastroenteritis in New Zealand (NZ) as well as worldwide. This study aimed to describe epidemiologic trends in disease notifications and hospital admissions because of Campylobacter gastroenteritis in NZ children from 1997 to 2016.

Methods: In this population-based descriptive study, age-specific and age-standardized notification and hospitalization rates were analyzed for Campylobacter infections in children <15 years of age. Variations in disease by time, sex, age, ethnicity and geography were described.

Results: During the 20-year period considered, there were 39,970 notifications (59.1% male) and 1458 hospitalizations (61.8% male) because of Campylobacter gastroenteritis in NZ children. Before 2006, notification rates increased by 3.4% annually [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.7%–6.2%], with a peak of 340 notifications per 100,000 children in 2003. The average percentage change (APC) in hospitalizations was 7.4% (95% CI: 4.0%–10.9%) in the same period. From 2006 to 2008, notification and hospitalization rates fell by 25% and 30%, respectively. Since 2008, age-standardized incidence rates have been stable at 161 notifications (APC: −3.1; 95% CI: 0.82 to −6.9) and 6.73 hospitalizations (APC: 2.2; 95% CI: −2.0 to 6.5) per 100,000 children per year. Notification rates were highest in children 1–4 years of age. Hospitalizations rates were highest in children <1 year of age.

Conclusions: NZ has previously had high rates of Campylobacter gastroenteritis in children. Implementation of a national strategy to reduce foodborne Campylobacter infection appears to have contributed to an observed reduction in rates between 2006 and 2008. The burden of Campylobacter disease is highest in the community health setting, with only a small proportion of cases needing hospitalization.

From the *Department of Pediatrics

Department of Population Health, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Accepted for publication October 23, 2018.

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Address for correspondence: Tony Walls, MD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Otago, PO Box 4345, Christchurch Mail Centre, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. E-mail:

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