Outbreak in Finland associated with main water supply reservoir

A widespread Campylobacter jejuni outbreak struck several thousand people in Finland in 1998. The municipal water system was implicated, but scientists still do not know how the water contamination occurred.

November 13, 2000 (NewsRx.com)—A widespread Campylobacter jejuni outbreak struck several thousand people in Finland in 1998. The municipal water system was implicated, but scientists still do not know how the water contamination occurred.

Collaborative efforts supported by researchers at several institutes in Finland resulted in an epidemiological report that was presented to attendees at the Infectious Diseases of American Conference. The conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The outbreak occurred in August of 1998. Initially the Public Health Institute received notification of 50 incidents of gastrointestinal infections. These illnesses were all reported from the same city within a three-day period. An evaluation of stool samples from 15 patients showed them to be infected with C. jejuni .

Eventually, 442 individuals who had contacted the health center due to gastroenteritis were identified as cases based on presenting factors. Almost half were females and their ages ranged from one year to 89 years. C. jejuni was isolated in 61% of the 74 stool samples tested.

Meanwhile, a survey sent out to a random sample of the population of the city was tabulated to determine information pertinent to the outbreak situation. Twenty percent of the survey respondents fit the case definition described by researchers.

"The estimated total number of ill persons was 3,000," said Pekka Nuorti et al. in the report, titled "An outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with municipal water supply in Finland."

Individuals who drank more water from the municipal water supply had a greater illness-associated attack rate than those who drank lesser quantities of water.

"Environmental investigation of the water system found that a cross-connection with the sewage system may have occurred during construction work on July 29 and holes were found in the roof of the water tower allowing rain water to enter the water reservoir," the investigators said.

Nevertheless, even though a single strain of C. jejuni was responsible for the outbreak, researchers were not able to pinpoint the exact cause of the contamination in the municipal water system.

A search of the online archives at www.NewsRx.com using the term "gastroenteritis" yielded 95 articles.

The corresponding author for this study is Pekka Nuorti, Municipality of Haukipudas, Haukipudas, Finland.

Key points reported in this study are: * An outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni occurred in Finland in August 1998 * Scientists estimate that 3,000 people were affected by the outbreak, which was traced to the municipal water supply * Researchers could not determine how the C. jejuni got into the municipal water supply.

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