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Ministry of Health urges prudent measures

Ministry of Health urges prudent measures

Ministry of Health Director of Public Health Dr Colin Tukuitonga said today there appears no evidence of infection in the three unexpected deaths in Otago in the last three weeks but until infection is officially ruled out the Ministry has to act prudently.

The Ministry today reinforced its message for health professionals to practise standard infection control measures in the wake of three unexpected deaths in Otago in the last three weeks.

"Health professionals working in hospitals, ambulance services and general practice are being reminded to use standard infection control procedures when dealing with any patients seeking treatment with similar symptoms.

"The Ministry clarified its earlier advice to health professionals today stating that only extra precautions need to be taken when dealing with contacts or cases of sudden collapse from pulmonary haemorrhage.

"There was public concern about these deaths because there was rapid progression of illness and to date the cause was unexplained. Generally the public could take some level of reassurance from the fact that no new cases have occurred and the deaths appear to be unrelated.

"People with routine colds or winter chills should not be concerned. It is those people who get sick very, very quickly who need to seek urgent medical attention," Dr Tukuitonga said.

"These appear isolated cases but the Ministry is continuing work to confirm this by checking other emergency departments, intensive care units and general practices to ensure they have not had a similar case. Preliminary results indicate no other similar deaths," Dr Tukuitonga said.

"The Ministry is also continuing to assist 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.

"While Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has been ruled out, work continues to determine if the causes of these three deaths can be established. We know that it is not uncommon in a certain number of cases not to be able to establish the cause of death," Dr Tukuitonga said.

"Meanwhile it is also an opportunity to remind the public of the need to always practise good personal hygiene. Simple measures to help limit the spread of infectious disease including washing hands thoroughly with soap and then drying them.


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