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Tuesday 23 October, 2018

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has sent staff to a Motutapu Island camp to provide protective antibiotics and assess the risk to others after a young man attending the camp died from suspected meningococcal disease last night in Auckland City Hospital.

There are 190 people at the St John youth camp on the island, but only a few people are considered to be ‘close contacts’ and at risk of infection.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather said a public health nurse and doctor have been to the island to give antibiotics to the young people who shared the same sleeping quarters and another person possibly exposed in the first aid room.  A friend of the young man was taken off the island as part of the medical evacuation last night, has been given antibiotics, but is not considered unwell.

“This is very tragic for the family of the 16 year old who died, and for everyone at the camp.

“The risk of the young people or staff being infected is very low, as the meningococcal bacterium is only spread by very close contact, or many hours of contact with an infected person.

“The other young people at the camp are safe and are being well looked after by St John, who are sending additional support staff.  The camp will continue until tomorrow and parents have been told of the young man, and given information on symptoms for when the young people return home,” Dr Barnfather said.

Northland’s Public Health Unit is talking to the family in Kerikeri about who else might have been at risk in the previous seven days in which the young man was infectious. 

“Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and can be difficult to diagnose, so we are providing information to the young people and parents so they can be alert for symptoms.  It can look like the flu early on but quickly gets much worse.  It is important to get early treatment,” Dr Barnfather said.

Symptoms include some or all of the following: fever, headache, vomiting, feeling sleepy/confused/delirious, loss of consciousness, joint pains, aching muscles, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights, rash - purple or red spots or bruises.  Additional symptoms in babies and infants include being unsettled, floppy or irritable, refusing drinks/feeds and becoming harder to wake.

“If you or anyone you know has these symptoms, don’t wait. Call a doctor or Healthline (0800 611 116) immediately,” Dr Barnfather said.

There is an average of 29 cases of meningococcal disease annually in Auckland, however numbers vary from seven to 47 in 2017.

For more information on meningococcal disease visit the ARPHS web page here.


Wednesday 12 September, 2018

View our strategy online  or download a copy for print 


The ARPHS Strategic Plan 2017-2022 outlines how ARPHS will achieve its vision of Te Ora ō Tāmaki Makaurau.

The essence of this vision is promoting and protecting the health and wellbeing of the people who live in Tāmaki Makaurau and the environment in which we reside.

We recognise that public health gain requires collective action with many other agencies and communities and this is reflected in our plan.

Thursday 30 August, 2018

1080 controls protect public health

Auckland Regional Public Health Service has placed conditions on a proposed pest control programme in the Hunua Ranges to protect public health.

The operation

Auckland Council is conducting an aerial 1080 bait operation from late August onwards this spring.  Sodium fluoroactetate (1080) will be applied by helicopter to 30,501 hectares of parkland in the Hunua Ranges. This will include the Waharau and Whakatiwai regional parks; Department of Conservation (DoC) administered lands, including the Mataitai Conservation Area, and some adjoining private land.

The purpose of the operation is to significantly reduce pest numbers and maintain the natural habitat of the Hunua Ranges. Pest levels have risen again after the highly successful 2015 operation.

The Hunua Ranges is a source of approximately 65% of Auckland’s drinking water and houses four large water reservoirs. There are also risks to neighbours and many visitors to the parks to be considered.

Role of ARPHS

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has a regulatory role in approving Auckland Council’s aerial 1080 operation application, with any conditions thought necessary to protect the health of the public. ARPHS has worked closely with Council and Watercare to ensure that conditions protect neighbours, park visitors and the drinking water reservoirs from contamination with 1080.

Measures to protect people include closing the park while 1080 is being aerially applied by helicopter, and until track clearances have been completed, depending on rainfall conditions.  More track clearances will be completed if there has been insufficient rainfall to cause bait disintegration.

Water reservoirs will be protected by having: 
  • a ‘no fly zone’ designation, 
  • buffers of 20-50m around water reservoirs to exclude any 1080 baits from being dropped within this zone, 
  • exclusion buffers of 200m around any water intakes, 
  • disconnection of reservoirs from the water treatment plant while bait is being laid and before it becomes degraded
  • extensive water monitoring for 1080
  • reconnection of reservoirs to the water treatment plant only after water tests show that no 1080 has been detected 
  • monitoring and removal of carcasses in the vicinity of the water reservoirs.

Notification of water results to Public Health

ARPHS’ Medical Officer of Health will be notified of all water testing results that occur following the 1080 drop.  ARPHS has a regulatory role of ensuring that the drinking water supply remains safe in accordance with the Drinkingwater Standards for New Zealand, and will not approve reconnection unless water testing results show that the concentration of 1080 in water is undetectable.

Risks to children from 1080 cereal baits

The greatest potential risk from 1080 is to a young child who may come across a bait pellet and put it into their mouth. The risk of poisoning is also increased by a child’s low body weight and relatively high metabolic rate. 

To reduce this risk, the park will be closed while bait is being dropped and this will be followed by track clearances.  The number of track clearances required will be determined by track usage and weather, particularly rain and wind.  

Symptoms of 1080 poisoning

Depending on the dose, symptoms of 1080 poisoning when ingested may occur within 30 minutes of exposure and progress rapidly.  Lower doses may take up to three hours to produce symptoms.  Symptoms may include abdominal pain and vomiting, rapid breathing, irritability or agitation, and may progress to confusion, collapse, seizures, and unconsciousness.

Treatment/management of poisoning

People with suspected 1080 poisoning must seek emergency hospital medical treatment immediately.  Any remaining material suspected of being contaminated with 1080 should be collected and taken with the patient to hospital. 

Notification of suspected 1080 poisoning

Any suspected case of 1080 poisoning must be referred to ARPHS’ Medical Officer of Health by the attending doctor, as per the requirements of the Health Act 1956, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.  The Medical Officer of Health will investigate how the poisoning may have occurred, ensure contaminated items are collected for testing, and require remedial action.

Other resources

Thursday 31 May, 2018
Public health officials will be working with licensed clubs, theatres and hospitality venues over Auckland in the upcoming months to ensure compliance with the Smoke-free Environments Act.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) Health Improvement Manager, Dean Adam says a simple and cheap way of complying with the Act is for the venue to become smoke-free. "I question why owners give up the best seats to smokers. On a sunny day, smokers get the best outdoor spots," he says.

"Aucklanders who are tired of being served up smoke in their favourite local establishments could chat to owners about the venue becoming smoke-free. Being smoke-free is catching on within hospitality and Auckland research shows this is something the public supports. Most Kiwis don’t smoke - so why are venues set up to accommodate a minority group? It creates an environment that normalises addiction," says Mr Adam.

"Manurewa is the next suburb we are targeting because it has one of the highest rates of smoking in Auckland. We are doing our bit to reduce second-hand smoking to improve peoples’ health," says Mr Adam.

According to census data, 21 percent of all adults aged 15 years and above living in Manurewa are regular smokers.

Those who breach the Act by refusing to comply could face prosecution by the Ministry of Health and fines of up to $4000. If a member of the public notices a smoking breach they can make a complaint by phoning (09) 623 4600.

The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 was established to protect people from inhaling second-hand smoke which can have serious health consequences.

Facts about second-hand smoking

  • ‘The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.’ ‘Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.’ (US Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta GA: Office on Smoking and Health; 2006)
  • Particulate levels (one marker of secondhand smoke) indoors in bars and restaurants can be nearly high as outside, where there is smoking. (Van der Deen et al. N Z Med J. 2014;127(1396):43-52 Edwards R, Wilson N. N Z Med J 2011;124:27-37)
  • Significant tobacco smoke effects occur at over 10m from groups of smokers, and at least 9m from a burning cigarette in light winds. ( Yamato et al. Kobe J Med Sci 2013;59:E93-105. Hwang J, Lee K. Nicotine Tob Res 2014;16:478)
To find out more about the Ministry of Health Guidelines for smoke free areas click here

Friday 11 May, 2018
Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is following up people who have become unwell after exposure to an unknown chemical at Augusta House in Victoria Street, Auckland.  ARPHS staff are interviewing those people worst affected. The interviews are to determine where they were at the time of exposure and what symptoms they experienced. WorkSafe New Zealand is investigating the incident and the cause has not yet been established.

Dr Denise Barnfather, ARPHS Medical Officer of Health, recommends that no one enters the restricted areas of the building until people are informed it is safe. People who were exposed to the chemical and are experiencing symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, shortness of breath or chest tightness should seek medical attention immediately.

Friday 04 May, 2018
An undercover operation by public health in Mangere revealed that three out of 10 outlets investigated on a single day were selling cigarettes illegally. 

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) regularly carries out stings using teenage volunteers who visit retailers to ensure that tobacco sales comply with the legislation. By law, retailers should be requesting ID for individuals buying tobacco if they look under 25.
“If you break the law you could be prosecuted. That’s our message to retailers who are encouraging tobacco addiction in childhood,” says Health Improvement Manager, Dean Adam from ARPHS. 

Retailers face hefty punishments for selling tobacco to minors including criminal convictions and fines of up to $10,000 if prosecuted.  A conviction means restrictions on employment, business and international travel.

“Shops selling cigarettes to children make addiction easy.  They help kids buy into a life-long nicotine habit - and children don’t understand the consequences of that,” says Mr Adam. 

"I started smoking at a very young age from the illegal trade of cigarettes.  During the last six years, I spent the same amount of money on cigarettes as my $30,000 student loan. Smoking took away my financial freedom," says student Arnia Appleby.   

ARPHS has run more than 1000 undercover operations over the last five years.

“Our team is getting more effective at catching and prosecuting people.  We also receive tip-offs from regular customers about their local store. It proves the community is taking a stand with us on this issue,” says Mr Adam. 

Mr Adam says it is disappointing to see such a high number of breaches within a few hours of going undercover.  Retailers are putting their own personal profit ahead of young people’s health.  The Mangere Otahuhu area has the lowest life expectancy and one of the highest rates of smoking of any local board.

ARPHS wants to hear from community groups or individuals keen to take action in the fight against childhood tobacco addiction. If you know of any retailers breaking cigarette laws it’s easy to make an anonymous complaint.

Youth Smoking Snapshot 

  • 12.4% of year 10 students believed they could buy cigarettes from a shop. 
    (Youth Insights Survey, 2014)
  • The average age people start smoking is 14.8 years old. 
    (NZ Health Survey: Tobacco Use 2016/2017)
  • 3.2% of 15-17-year-olds smoke daily
    (NZ Health Survey: 2016/2017) 
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