A National Epidemic of Campylobacteriosis in Iceland, Lessons Learned

J. Tustin, K. Laberge, P. Michel*, J. Reiersen, S. Dadadóttir, H. Briem, H. Hardardóttir, K. Kristinsson, E. Gunnarsson, V. Fridriksdóttir, F. Georgsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Epidemics often result in organizational, policy and technical changes within a country. In 1999, an epidemic of campylobacteriosis was reported in Iceland. The recent availability of fresh poultry products in the marketplace was suggested as the source of infection. This paper reports on the context of the epidemic, reviews interventions implemented to prevent campylobacteriosis, and discusses lessons learned. A retrospective study of interventions implemented in Iceland from June 1995 to December 2007 was conducted by interviewing key informants and reviewing Iceland's literature. Cumulative incidence rates of domestic campylobacteriosis by year and average incidence rates per epidemic period were calculated. Interventions included on-farm surveillance of Campylobacter, producer education, enhanced biosecurity measures, changes in poultry processing, a leak-proof packaging policy, a freezing policy for products from Campylobacter-positive poultry flocks, consumer education, and the creation of a legislated inter-organizational response committee. These interventions appear to have collectively contributed to a decrease in campylobacteriosis' incidence rate near pre-epidemic baseline levels. Expert consultations revealed that the implementation of a Campylobacter surveillance program in poultry and the freezing policy were critical to controlling the disease in the Icelandic population. It was also recognized that new multidisciplinary collaborations among public health, veterinary, and food safety authorities and a sustained co-operation from the poultry industry were integral factors to the mitigation of the epidemic. Iceland's response to the campylobacteriosis epidemic is a lesson learned of inter-disciplinary and inter-organizational precautionary public health action in the face of a complex public health issue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-447
Number of pages8
JournalZoonoses and Public Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011

Other keywords

  • Campylobacter
  • Food pathogens
  • Policy
  • Poultry
  • Public health
  • Surveillance


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