FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, 2 March 2012
Auckland Regional Public Health Service investigates a Hepatitis A cluster
Auckland Regional Public Health Service is currently investigating a cluster of Hepatitis A cases within the region. As of 09.00am this morning there have been 19 confirmed cases.
As this outbreak does involve school aged children we have been working closely with the schools providing public health advice for staff and parents, we will continue working with them as the situation evolves.
Fortunately Hepatitis A is usually a mild illness in children with complete recovery and no ongoing health effects. Symptoms in children usually include fever, an upset stomach, and feeling tired and generally unwell. Many children do not show any signs that they have been infected. Very occasionally children develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Dr Shanika Perera says “If a parent is concerned that their child may have been exposed to Hepatitis A infection and they are unwell, we ask that they stay away from school, childcare centres and social events and contact their doctor. Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test.”
Teenagers and adults are usually more unwell than children with Hepatitis A. Fortunately recovery is complete without leaving permanent damage.
We have a large team working to manage this evolving situation, as cases are confirmed, assessments are made and close contacts are identified we will be in touch with affected schools and parents to provide information and advice.
Dr Perera says “At this time it is unknown how the disease was initially contracted, we are currently working with the cases to determine the source of the disease and prevent further spread.”
Hepatitis A is excreted from the body through faeces, it can be spread from person-to-person or by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated. The best way to prevent the spread of the infection is careful hand washing with soap and proper drying, especially after using the toilet and before eating.
“Hepatitis A is an uncommon disease in New Zealand but to keep it that way we need to contain the spread, regular handwashing with soap and warm water then drying thoroughly is the simplest way to prevent spread” said Dr Perera.
For media enquiries call:
Cell 021 2432421
For information on Hepatitis A and Hand Hygiene visit: http://www.arphs.govt.nz/health-information/communicable-disease/hepatitis-a
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is an infection affecting the liver. It is uncommon in New Zealand so it is very important to stop it spreading through the community. Hepatitis A is caused by a virus, which is found in the bowel motions of those with the infection. It can be spread from person-to-person or by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated. The Hepatitis A virus can survive for a long time in the environment in damp moist conditions.
Hepatitis A usually causes a mild illness in children who often do not show any symptoms. The disease is more serious in adults and can last for several months. Fortunately recovery is complete without leaving permanent damage. An attack of Hepatitis A develops a lifetime immunity, which prevents it occurring again.
What are the symptoms?
It can take a few weeks after coming into contact with Hepatitis A before a person who has caught the infection starts to feel unwell. The time between contact and first symptoms can be 2-7 weeks.
The symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include:
• Generally feeling unwell
• Tiredness and lack of energy
• Loss of appetite
• Stomach upsets and pains
• Mild fever
• General aches and pains
• Nausea and vomiting
• Dark urine
• Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)
If you or your child has any of these symptoms, please see your GP and tell them you have been a contact of someone with Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A can be diagnosed by a blood test.
How do you catch Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is spread by:
• Food, water or milk being contaminated
• Close personal contact and poor personal hygiene
• Eating or drinking things handled by an infected person
How long is someone infectious with Hepatitis A?
People with Hepatitis A infection are can pass it on to other people when they are infectious. They will be infectious for 1-2 weeks before they start to feel ill and until 1 week after they develop jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes).
How can the spread of Hepatitis A be prevented?
Careful Hand Washing: The best way to prevent the spread of infection is careful hand washing.
• Wash hands with soap and dry them well
• Wash hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, and before eating anything.
Don’t Share Food and Drink: Infected people should not share food, drink bottles, cups or spoons with other people.
Stay at Home while Infectious: People will Hepatitis A will be asked to stay away from school, work, and social gatherings during their infectious period
Hepatitis A Immunisation
Hepatitis A is not common in New Zealand.
Hepatitis A immunisation works very well for preventing infection in those who are not immune. Immunisation is also sometimes used to control the spread of Hepatitis A through the community.
When might immunisation be offered?
Immunisation may be offered when:
• The risk of transmission of Hepatitis A is high
o Very close family contacts
o Customers of a food outlet
o Co-workers in a food outlet
• There is a large outbreak in the community
• Travellers are going to places where Hepatitis A is common
For long term protection by immunisation, two doses given 6 months apart are recommended. Immunisation is available from your GP.
Hepatitis A Immunoglobulin
Immunoglobulin is sometimes used to help control the spread of Hepatitis A through the community for children aged <12 months and adults aged >40 years for whom immunisation is not effective.
Immunoglobulin gives short-term protection and is effective for a period of 2-3 months. It is an extract of antibodies taken from blood donations.