Aims: New Zealand has a high incidence of cryptosporidiosis compared to other developed countries. This study aimed to describe the epidemiology of this disease in detail and to identify potential risk factors.
Methods: We analysed anonymous cryptosporidiosis notification (1997-2006) and hospitalisation data (1996-2006). Cases were designated as "urban" or "rural" and assigned a deprivation level based on their home address. Association between disease rates and animal density was studied using a simple linear regression model, at the territorial authority level.
Results: Over the 10-year period 1997-2006, the average annual rate of notified cryptosporidiosis was 22.0 cases per 100,000 population. The number of hospitalisations was equivalent to 3.6% of the notified cases. There was only 1 reported fatality. The annual incidence of infection appeared fairly stable, but showed marked seasonality with a peak rate in spring (September-November in New Zealand). The highest rates were among Europeans, children 0-9 years of age, and those living in low deprivation areas. Notification rates showed large geographic variations, with rates in rural areas 2.8 times higher than in urban areas, and with rural areas also experiencing the most pronounced spring peak. At the territorial authority (TA) level, rates were also correlated with farm animal density.
Conclusions: Most transmission of Cryptosporidium in New Zealand appears to be zoonotic: from farm animals to humans. Prevention should focus on reducing transmission in rural setting, though more research is needed to identify which strategies are likely to be most effective in that environment.