13 January 2006
Update On Hepatitis ‘A’ Cases In Christchurch
A total of 14 cases of Hepatitis A have now been notified to the Medical Officer of Health since Boxing Day.
Investigations into the possible source of the cases, which have been grouped in a series of smaller clusters, have revealed that the common feature between the groups is association with a day care centre.
Eight of the cases have direct association with the centre but a series of other functions such as birthday and Christmas functions are also involved.
Dr Mel Brieseman, Medical officer of Health for Canterbury, stressed the association with the centre did not mean that the centre was the cause of the outbreak.
“It is probable that the disease was initially introduced from outside, probably from someone returning from overseas during the incubation period,” Dr Brieseman said.
“It spread among those attending the centre and the situation multiplied during other gatherings.
“Because of the long incubation period, exposure would have occurred mainly some weeks ago, and as a consequence there is nothing to be gained by closing the centre,” he said.
Dr Brieseman said a number of situations outside the centre’s control had accounted for many of the cases.
Dr Brieseman said those involved included some children who attended the centre while others were among people who had attended functions at which the children were present.
ABC Centre Manager Cindy Paul said, “While it was disappointing that the centre was related to the illness, it was re-assuring to know that it was not entirely due to a breakdown in the centre’s systems.”
“The centre prides itself on maintaining high standards and has strict health and hygiene policies in place,” she said.
Dr Brieseman said that early next week staff of Community and Public Health would meet with parents to discuss the issues involved and provide advice to staff and parents. It is also planned to offer immunisation to people involved.
“Although the value of immunisation is less certain after this interval, it is nonetheless worth considering because of the possibility of others incubating the disease,” he said
Although every effort is being made to contain this illness, because of the highly infectious nature of the virus we will be continuing to monitor for additional cases.
“The cooperation of all so far involved – patients, family members, general practitioners and the centre itself - is much appreciated,” Dr Brieseman said
“Hand washing after going to the toilet and before handling food is the key to prevention not only of hepatitis but of a number of other enteric (bowel) infections,” Dr Brieseman said.
“This is the most important lesson too learn for the community as a whole from this situation and is a reminder that the basic principles of basic hygiene, although of vital importance, are essential.”