Hepatitis ‘A’ Cases In Christchurch
Seven cases of ‘Hepatitis A’ have been notified to the Medical Officer of Health since Christmas. Although there are associations between some of these cases there is as yet, no indication of a common source of the disease. None of these cases have travelled overseas.
Investigations are continuing to try and establish if there is any common food source. Close contacts of these cases are being followed up and may be offered preventive injections of gamma globulin if the exposure has been recent.
Three earlier cases notified in December belonged to a family who are believed to have acquired the disease during a trip to the Pacific. Since 2001, there have only been a total of 2 or 3 cases notified each year.
Hepatitis A, is a viral disease that affects the liver. It is spread either by contamination of food or directly from person to person because of poor hygiene, particularly failure of hand washing. Early symptoms include generally feeling unwell, abdominal discomfort, nausea and fever. Jaundice develops in the later stages of the disease.
General practitioners (GP) have been advised of the outbreak and requested to consider the diagnosis in patients with suggestive symptoms. Persons who are showing possible signs of the disease are advised to consult their own GP.
“The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) views this outbreak as a serious public health issue and can not stress enough the importance of hand washing after going to the toilet and before handling food”, said Dr Mel Brieseman, Medical Officer of Health from Community & Public Health, a division of the CDHB.
“Workers and employers in the food industry are also reminded not to work with food, when they are suffering from any form of stomach upset”, he said.
A preventive vaccination is also available for persons who are likely to be at high risk such as those travelling to high risk countries but a cost is involved.