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MOH seeks increased surveillance infection control

Ministry seeking increased surveillance and reinforcing good infection control

Emergency department staff are being asked to report any patients with symptoms similar to the three sudden unexpected deaths in Otago in the last three weeks, Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi said today.

Dr Poutasi says the Ministry is also reinforcing the message to health professionals from the Otago Public health services of the need for good infection control when dealing with any patients seeking treatment with similar symptoms.

The Ministry is working with Otago District Health Board to ensure the public health risk from any disease is identified and managed as well as possible. Dr Poutasi says while the three deaths could be a coincidence, health authorities are taking care to ensure risks are covered as well as possible.

Dr Poutasi says the Ministry is checking to confirm that these are isolated cases. The Ministry is contacting all emergency departments checking there have not been any other recent cases of individuals who may have been treated with similar symptoms.

The Ministry is assisting with providing expert advice to doctors and nurses involved in managing the issue through an expert committee - the Infectious Diseases Technical Advisory Committee to ensure all appropriate steps are being taken to limit any risk of spread of the disease.

Dr Poutasi says health authorities, like the public, may take a level of reassurance from the very low number of cases and lack of spread to other individuals, which suggests a low level of disease infectivity.

All general practitioners are also being advised to be alert for similar cases and to ensure infection control policies are strictly adhered to.

Simple measures such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and then drying after sneezing or blowing your nose and before eating or touching your face and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing will help limit the spread of infectious diseases.

Individuals who are ill should seek prompt medical advice.

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