A Cautionary Tale of Untreated Groundwater, Campylobacter, and New Zealand’s Largest Drinking Water Outbreak
Fred Reiff, P.E.

3-D computer-generated image of Campylobacter based upon scanning electron micrographic imagery

3-D computer-generated image of Campylobacter based upon scanning electron micrographic imagery

Courtesy of CDC/James Archer


Havelock North is a suburb of the City of Hastings on the North Island of New Zealand with 14,000 residents.  By the end of August 2016, over one-third of the residents of this entire town had been sickened by drinking water contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, the most common source of foodborne illness in New Zealand.1 How did a wealthy country with national drinking water standards come to experience the largest documented drinking water outbreak in its history?

The Outbreak

Like most waterborne disease outbreaks, Havelock North’s began when a few residents stayed home from work assuming they had food poisoning or a seasonal illness.  The trickle soon grew to dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately thousands of residents suffering from debilitating cramps, headaches and nausea.  “By Friday August 12 schools reported hundreds of … READ MORE >>


Norovirus and Chlorine Bleach: The Perfect Pathogen Meets its Match
Linda Golodner

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of norovirus particles

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of norovirus particles

Courtesy of CDC/ Charles D. Humphrey


Is there such a thing as a “perfect” human pathogen?  If by perfect we mean a disease-causing microorganism that is highly contagious; quickly and profusely shed in the environment by its hosts; and able to evolve rapidly to both avoid widespread human immunity and ensure a large pool of susceptible hosts, then norovirus comes very close.  Norovirus expert Dr. Aron Hall of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Division of Viral Diseases cleverly entertained the notion that noroviruses could be the perfect human pathogens in a 2012 editorial commentary.1

Notorious Norovirus

Sometimes referred to as “the stomach bug,” and infamous for spreading through cruise ships, norovirus is responsible for some 19-21 million cases of gastrointestinal illness in the US annually.2   The very young, the very old and the immunocompromised are especially vulnerable … READ MORE >>


Meeting the Goal of Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation for All
Joan B. Rose, PhD

Reliable and safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental requirements of people trying to reach their greatest potential in life. Few of us can relate to the burden and indignity of living without these basic services. Achieving universal access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services is one of the 17 Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (“SDG” #6) that form the core of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The SDGs build on 15 years of progress made under the earlier eight Millennium Development Goals (“MDGs”) from 2000 to 2015. On the first of January, 2016, the MDG timeline officially ended and the SDG timeline began. How do MDGs and SDGs differ? While both are “people-focused,” SDGs are more specific and measurable than the MDGs and promise to “leave no one behind.” This article explores the progress already made under the MDGs and the work yet needed to … READ MORE >>


The Right Way to Wash Your Hands
Barbara Soule, RN, MPA, CIC, FSHEA, FAPIC

Wash your hands! The parental command echoes in my memory. It is also the public health message we hear most often when the subject is preventing the spread of infectious illness. Hand washing may be one of the easiest things we can do to ward off sickness, but the casual observer in any public restroom can attest to the slap-dash ritual practiced by many. Running water over the hands for a few seconds may be better than nothing, but consciously washing hands correctly is a learned behavior that can pay dividends.

The “Why” of Handwashing

The simple fact is that washing hands removes germs that can make you and others sick. Human hands, which perform countless useful activities, are also the prime vehicles for moving germs from person to person.  As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website notes, people can infect themselves by touching their eyes, nose … READ MORE >>


A Public Health Anniversary: US Drinking Water Chlorination
Water Quality & Health Council

Monday, September 26, 2016, marks the 108th anniversary of the first continuous use of chlorine to disinfect a public drinking water supply in the US.  Do you know which American city debuted chlorinated drinking water in the fall of 1908?  Can you imagine the relief of local public health officials when typhoid fever death rates plummeted?  Grab a refreshing glass of H2O and read the full story here!

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