FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, 5 March 2012
Update on Hepatitis A cluster
Auckland Regional Public Health Service can confirm as of 09.00am this morning there are 31 cases of Hepatitis A within the Auckland region. This increase was anticipated based on our initial investigations.
As these cases are affecting school age children, we have been working closely with the staff and parents at the associated schools to assess risk and provide advice. Currently there are nine schools in the Auckland Region with whom we have been in contact.
Dr Shanika Perera, Medical Officer of Health said “This is an evolving situation and an increase in cases was expected following the assessment of close contacts. We are continuing to work with the all cases to contain this outbreak.”
Public Health officials continue their attempts to ascertain the source of the outbreak and at this stage consider the most likely source is one or more importations of infection due to people travelling overseas.
Hepatitis A is a mild illness, particularly in children. 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.
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.
“The most important way to prevent spread of this disease is to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating.” said Dr Perera.
For advice on hand washing visit our website www.arphs.govt.nz
For media enquiries, call:
Cell 021 2432421
Note to Editors:
While this outbreak continues we will update the number of confirmed cases daily by 12.00 noon, visit www.arphs.govt.nz/health-information/communicable-disease/hepatitis-a for updates.
For information on Hepatitis A and Hand Hygiene visit: 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.