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J Epidemiol Community Health 58:273-277 doi:10.1136/jech.2003.009928
  • Evidence based public health policy and practice

An outbreak of gastroenteritis from a non-chlorinated community water supply

  1. M Kuusi1,
  2. P Klemets1,
  3. I Miettinen2,
  4. I Laaksonen3,
  5. H Sarkkinen4,
  6. M L Hänninen5,
  7. H Rautelin6,
  8. E Kela1,
  9. J P Nuorti1
  1. 1Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Department of Environmental Health, National Public Health Institute, Kuopio, Finland
  3. 3Municipal Health Centre, Asikkala, Finland
  4. 4Department of Clinical Microbiology, Central Hospital of Päijät-Häme, Lahti, Finland
  5. 5Department of Food and Environmental Hygiene, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland
  6. 6Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital Laboratory Diagnostics
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M Kuusi
 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, 00300 Helsinki, Finland; markku.kuusiktl.fi
  • Accepted 13 August 2003

Abstract

Study objective: To determine the source and the extent of a community wide outbreak of gastroenteritis.

Design: A matched case-control study with postal questionnaires. Subtyping of campylobacter strains by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).

Setting: A rural municipality with a population of 8600 in southern Finland, August 2000. Two thirds of the population receive non-chlorinated ground water from the municipal water supply.

Participants: Cases were randomly selected among residents of the municipality who contacted the municipal health centre because of gastroenteritis and had illness onset between 31 July and 20 August 2000. Community controls were identified from the population registry and matched according to sex, year of birth, and postal code.

Main results: Four hundred and sixty three persons contacted the municipal health centre because of gastroenteritis. Campylobacter jejuni was isolated from stool samples of 24 persons. One hundred and thirty seven cases and 388 controls were enrolled in the case-control study. In multivariate analysis, drinking unboiled water from the municipal supply was significantly associated with illness (odds ratio 11.1, 95% confidence interval 1.4 to 90.2). C jejuni was isolated from one tap water sample. The water isolate and all but one of the patient isolates were indistinguishable by PFGE.

Conclusions: Combining epidemiological investigation with molecular subtyping methods provided strong evidence that water was the source of the outbreak. Non-chlorinated small ground water systems may be susceptible to waterborne outbreaks and constitute a risk to rural populations.

Footnotes

  • Funding: none

  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.