Campylobacter is the most frequently reported cause of acute infectious diarrhea in Germany. Campylobacter outbreaks are rare events. However, their investigation provides useful information on risks of infection and unused prevention potentials.
We analyzed the Hessian database for notifiable diseases for cases of campylobacteriosis reported from 2005 through 2011. For campylobacter outbreaks including five or more cases we prospectively obtained additional information from local public health authorities.
From 2005 through 2011, 29,473 cases of campylobacteriosis were reported in Hesse, Germany (approx. 6 million inhabitants), yielding an annual incidence ranging from 53.4 to 81.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Only 236 cases were part of 16 outbreaks with five or more cases. Among these, six outbreaks occurred among groups traveling outside Germany, four were associated with the consumption of raw milk. For eight outbreaks consumption of poultry was considered a probable or - based on the frequent consumption of poultry during group travel - possible vehicle of infection. Two of the raw-milk associated outbreaks were reported among two groups who visited the same farm within 18 days. Five of 14 members of several families and 77 of 117 students fell sick. The local public health authority was only informed when both groups had visited the farm.
The reported outbreaks can be attributed to known risk factors for campylobacteriosis - consumption of raw milk and poultry and international travel. This underlines that prevention possibilities are insufficiently used. These include avoiding the consumption of unpasteurized milk and milk products, the hygienically correct handling of raw poultry and timely identification and notification of outbreaks to public health authorities.
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