Source: Health Research Council, 20 September 2017
A new programme will carry out an in-depth analysis of the
unprecedented water supply outbreak in Havelock North last August
where more than 5000 people were infected with the
Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) Chief Executive
Professor Kath McPherson announced today that it was investing
$437,949 for the research programme - a special funding allocation
awarded due to the significance of New Zealand's largest water
supply contamination event. This research would provide the
opportunity for health officials, local authorities and communities
at large to be better prepared.
"Thankfully public health crises like this are rare, but when we
do have one it's important that we take the opportunity to learn as
much as we can from it so that it doesn't happen again, or at the
very least that we can respond much quicker to greatly lessen the
impact on our people's health," said Professor McPherson.
Professor McPherson said this programme of research will bring
together experts from across the health and academic sectors to
support the region.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health, Dr
Nicholas Jones, would lead the programme along with Professor
Michael Baker from the University of Otago's Department of Public
Health in Wellington. Lead investigators include Dr Brent
Gilpin, Dr Jillian Sherwood, Dr Claire Newbern and Dr Mehnaz Adnan
from ESR (Institute of Environmental Science and Research); Dr
Tiffany Walker, Dr Colin Hutchinson and Dr Tim Frendin from Hawke's
Bay District Health Board; and Dr Jonathan Marshall from Massey
University. Dr Anita Jagroop-Dearing from Eastern Institute of
Technology (EIT) will manage the research.
The programme is made up of six separate studies, each covering
different aspects of the Campylobacter
outbreak. These include a detailed assessment of the outbreak and
the public health sector's response to it; an investigation into
the longer-term health impacts of the outbreak; and an exploration
of non-traditional early warning detection tools that could have
potentially helped public health professionals identify the
Dr Jones said that despite Hawke's Bay District Health Board and
local councils having already gathered extensive data on human
illness, exposure and risk factors, and drinking water and
environmental sources of Campylobacter, there was a
unique opportunity for further analysis to gain maximum benefit of
the data collected.
"This outbreak is the largest
recognised Campylobacter outbreak to date in
New Zealand," said Dr Jones.
"Thanks to the HRC's funding, we'll be able to delve further
into the detail to gain insights into the health impacts of a
gastroenteritis outbreak of this scale, as well as evaluate the
effectiveness of public health interventions and messaging."
"All New Zealand communities will benefit from the programme's
findings. The results will also be of international interest as
documented water supply outbreaks of this size are unusual," he