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25 Latest News Articles
Thursday 21 December, 2017
With dengue fever outbreaks across the Pacific, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is advising anyone travelling to the region to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Auckland has seen a spike in dengue fever cases with 70 percent of cases from Samoa in the last two months.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather urges anyone travelling to these countries where dengue fever occurs, particularly Samoa, to exercise caution.

“Dengue fever can be a severe illness. Those who travel to Pacific countries frequently are at risk of repeat infections with different strains of the dengue virus. This can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.” 

Symptoms of dengue fever include the sudden onset of fever for two to seven days, intense headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting and skin rash.  People who develop dengue haemorrhagic fever may also develop symptoms of bleeding such as bruising and nose bleeds, and internal bleeding can also occur.  

There is no vaccine currently available in the Pacific for dengue fever; nor does vitamin B prevent mosquito bites. The only way to prevent infection, says Dr Barnfather, is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. 

“Although the commonest time for bites is early morning and late afternoon, dengue-carrying mosquitoes also bite all through the day.” 

Take precautions to ensure you avoid being bitten. 

Indoors 

• Use screens on doors and windows. 
• Use insect sprays. 
• Use mosquito coils. 
• Use a mosquito net over your bed at night. You can spray this with insecticide if you wish. 
• Turn on air conditioning if you have it – this is very effective at keeping mosquitoes out of a room.

Outdoors 

• Wear a repellent cream or spray containing less than 35% diethyltoluamide (DEET). High concentrations are no more effective and can be harmful.  Products containing 20-25% picaridin or 30% lemon eucalyptus oil can also be used.
• When using sunscreen, apply repellent over the top of sunscreen.
• Wear light coloured protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats. Clothing can be treated with repellent. 

Dr Barnfather says anyone returning from overseas with dengue symptoms, or feeling generally unwell, should contact their GP or Healthline and let them know where they travelled. Paracetamol is recommended rather than aspirin, as aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding from dengue infection.

New Zealand mosquitoes do not carry dengue virus, and it is not spread person to person. Despite this, says Dr Barnfather, “dengue is not a disease you want to bring home. By taking precautions, you can reduce the risk of infection and have a more enjoyable trip.”

Ends 

More information on Dengue Fever can be found here.
More information from the Ministry of Health on avoiding mosquito bites can be found here

For media enquiries please phone ARPHS communications staff on 021 243 2421
Tuesday 19 December, 2017

Barbecues, family feasts and outdoor eating go with the territory during the Christmas holidays – unfortunately so do the rates of gastroenteritis reported to public health.

“Summer is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. No one wants food poisoning for Christmas - it could also ruin your family holiday. What’s even worse is that it is entirely preventable.” says Medical Officer of Health Dr David Sinclair from Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Be food-wise and check out Dr Sinclair’s Q&A’s for Christmas meat-eaters during the festive season.

Why does summer make people so vulnerable to food poisoning?

Hot summer temperatures, especially during a heatwave are a breeding ground for bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella. These bacteria contaminate food and multiply in warm, moist conditions, which is exactly why meat is the ideal carrier for bacteria.

What is the highest risk food?

Meat-eaters need to be cautious, especially if you love chicken. Chicken carries the highest risk of any food for contamination and should be cooked until there is no pink flesh visible right down the middle.

What precautions should we be taking for barbecuing and picnics?

Ensure food that is outdoors remains in the shade and is covered and cool until ready to cook or eat. We recommend using a chilly-bin with icepacks for keeping meat cold. Precook chicken, meat patties and sausages before barbecuing. Cooking with a barbecue makes it difficult to gauge the temperature so a meat thermometer is a good idea and a handy Christmas present too.

How can we minimise the risk when preparing food?

Wash and dry your hands before and after handling food. Use one chopping board and set of utensils for raw meat and another set for cooked food. Follow the 4 Cs’ to minimise the risk of food borne illness - Clean, Cook, Cover, and Chill. If you are unwell do not handle food for other people.

What advice can you give when cooking meat?

Defrost frozen foods before cooking. Minced meat and sausages should be cooked right through and pork and poultry juices should run clear with no visible pink flesh.

How should we be storing meat?

Raw meat and chicken should be wrapped to stop drips and stored away from other foods ideally on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Ensure your fridge temperature is 2-4 ⁰C.

What about the leftovers?

Cover and refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Throw out any meat products that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.

Enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season. If you are unwell or concerned about your health, please visit your doctor or call the nurses at Healthline for advice on 0800-611-116 (Healthline is open 24 hours, seven days a week).

ENDS

Friday 08 December, 2017
Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is recommending that raw or marinated fish brought in by Pacific relatives should be off the menu, after a rise in food poisoning.

Public Health has seen an increase in Shigella cases, a type of severe gastroenteritis caused by a bacteria commonly found in the Pacific and India.

ARPHS is managing seven cases in Tongan families in South Auckland, with several of the cases eating raw or marinated fish which may have been brought in by family from the Pacific. The service is making sure the cases get the care they need.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health, Dr David Sinclair, suggested that families be careful to cook any fish which has come in with visiting relatives from the Pacific.

Any fresh or frozen food carried into New Zealand through personal luggage can be risky, especially if it is not cooked when served, he says.

“The rates of food poisoning go up at this time of year and it’s not just shigella. There are many other forms of gastroenteritis and some people become sick after travel in the Pacific.

“We like to remind families going home to the Pacific to eat freshly cooked hot food,” Dr Sinclair says. 

The symptoms of Shigella are similar to other types of food poisoning with diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. Faeces (poo) may contain blood and mucus.  

Dr Sinclair advises anyone with these symptoms and is concerned should see their general practitioner. 

People with any symptoms of food poisoning should stay away from work or education until at least 24 – 48 hours after the symptoms stop.

For more information on Shigella and safe travel see:
• Call Health Line 24/7 on freephone 0800 611 116
Information on Shigella 
www.safetravel.govt.nz

Wednesday 27 September, 2017
Four Auckland communities are experiencing small clusters of whooping cough cases with five local schools affected.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) Medical Officer of Health Dr Michael Hale says there have been eight cases in Laingholm, six cases in Henderson, three in the Tuakau area and three associated with a Waiheke Island school.

Dr Hale confirmed the service has seen a rise in notifications to 33 in the last 30 days, compared with an average of 26 per month for the previous three months.

Almost half of these cases are for children and young adults under the age of 19 (15 cases) and 13 of the remaining in adults over 30, including a 76 year old man.

ARPHS is working with all the schools with cases to inform parents and track further cases. 
“Whooping cough is a highly infectious and serious illness. It is particularly serious for babies under one year of age. Two babies died from whooping cough in New Zealand in the 2013 outbreak,” Dr Hale says.

To keep whanau safe, children must be vaccinated on time.  Families expecting a new baby, or who have a baby under 12 months old, should check that all their family members and visitors to the baby have had the whooping cough vaccination in the last five years. 

Vaccination for all children is free, and women in their last three months of pregnancy can now have free vaccination from their medical doctor. This protects their baby when it is born.

If you are not sure if your children are fully vaccinated, check their Well Child/Tamariki Ora Health Book, or ask your family doctor or practice nurse.

If you feel sick with a cold – runny nose, sneezing, slight fever and a mild irritating cough you might have whooping cough, so you must stay away from babies and go and see your medical doctor.

Get more help and information from:
Wednesday 06 September, 2017
Graph of mumps cases in Auckland

A ‘lost generation’ of young people is facing a triple threat of potentially serious diseases as a result of low immunisation rates in many Auckland communities. 

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) warns that the 300 mumps cases in the region since January points to a large number of 10 to 29 year olds who are also at risk of measles and rubella. 

Medical Officer of Health Dr Josephine Herman says young people and their whanau need to ensure they have had two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

“The implications for young adults are deeply concerning, given the risk of non-immune pregnant women catching rubella. This can result in miscarriage or still birth and babies developing severe birth defects,” says Dr Herman. 

Mumps also poses a risk of miscarriage for women who are in their first three months of pregnancy, and in rare cases can cause male sterility. 

Measles is an additional threat to communities with low vaccination coverage. “It is likely we’ll see further measles outbreaks in schools similar to those in 2011, 2014 and 2016. The measles virus is highly contagious and can lead to serious medical complications as well,” Dr Herman says. 

Parents who are unsure about their family’s MMR vaccinations are being urged to check with their practice nurse or look up their children’s blue Well Child book. This is free for any person who has not received two doses. 

This ‘lost generation’ of the unprotected is partly due to the now discredited MMR controversy from 1998 onwards. There is also a pool of adults who may have missed out on receiving the second dose of the MMR vaccine when they were children, as the timing of this dose was moved from 11 years to 4 years in 2001. 

According to national immunisation data, the coverage rates in young children up to the age of 12 years are around 80 percent. Today’s mid twenty year olds have even lower rates, with a national coverage survey reporting that only 60 percent of Pakeha children were fully immunised in 1991, with lower rates for Maori (42 percent) and Pacific children (45 percent). 

ARPHS has been notified of 300 cases from January 1 to 4 September 2017, with this total greater than all the cases of mumps in the last 16 years.

“Mumps is now at large in the community and the only way we can stop this spreading further is to achieve high levels of MMR vaccination in the population,” says Dr Herman. 
Thursday 10 August, 2017
Public health typically observes a seasonal increase of meningococcal disease from June to September each year and is currently managing new cases.

“Meningococcal disease is a serious and sometimes fatal disease.  It is caused by bacteria spread by very close or many hours of prolonged contact with an infected person.  Be alert for symptoms and if you suspect meningococcal disease visit your doctor immediately or call Healthline for advice,” says Medical Officer of Health Shanika Perera from Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS).

Symptoms to watch out for 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.

“Since June this year we have managed 12 cases which is to be expected at this time of year.  We are investigating these cases and monitoring the situation,” says Dr Perera.    

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

Call Healthline on 0800-611-116 or visit your doctor if you suspect meningococcal disease.
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