A study by the Jerusalem District Office of the Health Ministry has found that while infections caused by the Salmonella and Shigella bacteria are on the decline, the number of infections caused by the Campylobacter bacteria is increasing.
Over the past 2 years it has become the leading cause for intestinal bacterial infections, the November study found.
The research focused on digestive track infections in the Jerusalem region between the years 1990 and 2008, and covered 32,408 cases. Cases of Salmonella dropped from 200 cases per 100,000 people in 1995, to 39 cases in 2008.
Meanwhile, a Nahariya study found that Campylobacter has become the leading reason that children are hospitalised with digestive system troubles in the western Galilee - much more so than Salmonella or Shigella.
Campylobacter cases have also increased steadily over the past 20 years, starting with only 15 cases per 100,000 people in 1990, and increasing to 100 cases per 100,000 by 2008. In the case of Shigella, numbers have jumped every 2 years, with 105 cases per 100,000 people in 2008.
The Nahariya study found that of the 99 children hospitalised between September 2007 and August 2009 for intestinal infections, 59% had Campylobacter infections, while 24% had Shigella and 14% had Salmonella.
"Contrary to earlier reports in Israel, Campylobacter has become a major cause of child hospitalisations due to intestinal infections and dysentery, which causes severe diarrhea," said Dr. Danny Glickman, who is in charge of the childhood infectious disease department at the hospital.
Glickman carried out the research along with Dr. Noam Dayan and Dikla Revivo.
Glickman says improperly handled poultry meat is the main reason for the increase in Campylobacter cases.
"The bacteria passes from chickens to humans when people don't wash their hands after handling chicken, such as when making schnitzel, or if the cutting board used for preparing chicken is then used for chopping vegetables," Glickman said.
"When the chicken meat is cooked, the bacteria die. However, the bacteria may move from the chicken to other food products in the kitchen if hygiene is not maintained. When a parent makes a bottle of formula for an infant without washing his or her hands after having handled chicken meat, the bacteria may make its way to the baby. Hygiene is paramount in the kitchen," Glickman said.