NORWAY – Using information on weather patterns and the incidence of Campylobacter on broiler farms, researchers have developed a new risk model for potential human Campylobacter outbreaks.

The model’s creators intend to make the data it generates available through a website that can provide alerts as necessary.

The model adopts a “One Health” approach, combining information from the animal, human, and environmental sectors to forecast epidemics of human gastrointestinal illnesses (GI).

Since 2004, more than 35,000 samples from humans in Norway, where the study was done, have tested positive for Campylobacter, including at least six outbreaks with 3-2000 cases of illness.

Human Campylobacter infections can be contracted via farm-raised chicken broilers, and it has been hypothesized that outdoor environments are a primary source of Campylobacter among broiler flocks.

In order to investigate the potential of such data in predicting future outbreaks, the researchers looked at the quantity and percentage of broiler flocks that tested positive for Campylobacter as a proxy for increased Campylobacter in the environment. They also compared this information with weather data.

Through Norway’s closed, interactive website Sykdomspulsen for kommunehelsetjenesten (the One Health Sykdomspulsen website), which is comparable to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (CDC’s FoodNet), visualizations of predictions derived from the model could be shared in real-time.

The study examined the weekly occurrence of Campylobacter on broiler farms in 356 municipalities between July 26, 2010, and March 14, 2022.

Data on the temperature and precipitation of the environment, as well as reported medical visits due to GI ailment, were compared to the presence of Campylobacter. Spatio-temporal models were used to depict the data.

The new outbreak model found statistically significant relationships that are consistent with the theory that weather patterns and Campylobacter samples from municipal broiler farms, which are used as a proxy for higher environmental contamination, are related to slight increases in GI illness consultations in Norwegian municipalities.

Even though broiler meat is sold throughout the country, the researchers also discovered simultaneous space-time clustering of Campylobacter infection in both broilers and people.

The finding could indicate that broiler meat is not the only source of human infection in the country and that there are other common sources of contamination for Campylobacter-positive broiler flocks and human campylobacteriosis cases, such as water in the environment.

In order to better understand how Campylobacter, the environment, weather, and human health interact, the monitoring system might be improved in several ways, and the model can be used to convey these insights to health professionals.

The One Health Sykdomspulsen website, which is built on a partnership between public health, animal health, and food safety authorities, might be used to disseminate crucial public health experts with significant forecasts and insights from the model.

The researchers feel that sharing model insights with healthcare professionals through a website is the final piece in developing a surveillance system with real-world applications since the goal of the modeling study was to improve One Health surveillance in Norway and throughout the EU.

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