Tainted tap water makes hundreds ill in New Zealand

Hundreds of people have fallen ill because of tainted tap water in a small town on New Zealand’s North Island.

Schools were forced to close because of the outbreak in Havelock North.

Health officials said that two patients were in a critical condition and 19 others remained in a local hospital after testing positive for the campylobacter bacteria.

A spokeswoman for the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, said the death of an elderly woman at a nursing home was also being investigated.

At least 200 people have been treated by local doctors and officials estimate up to 2,000 people have been taken ill. 

Campylobacter bacteria are typically spread from animal faeces.

Officials say they do not know yet how the underground water aquifers that supply the town became contaminated.

A bacterial outbreak of this scale is relatively rare in New Zealand, which markets its clean, green image to tourists.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the situation was unacceptable and it was clear a large amount of material needed to get into the water supply for it to become so contaminated.

“Fundamentally, we need to understand how it took place,” he said.


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