17 January 2006
Update On Hepatitis ‘A’ Cases In Christchurch
A total of 23 cases of ‘Hepatitis A’ have now been notified to the Medical Officer of Health for Canterbury since Boxing Day 2005 and 3 cases prior to Christmas.
Vaccinations against ‘Hepatitis A’ were offered to staff, children, and family members at the Ferrymead’s ABC Learning Centre today. More than 270 vaccinations were given today.
Community and Public Health staff, have met with ABC Learning Centre staff, parents and family members and discussed the issues involved. Over 25 Community and Public Health staff worked in two shifts responding to questions and administering vaccine.
“Centre staff and parents were extremely co-operative,” said Medical Officer of Health for Dr Mel Brieseman.
Arrangements have also been made for a small number of other contacts with close association to receive their immunisation.
Dr Brieseman stressed that because of the seven week incubation period of ‘Hepatitis A’ and due to the recent holiday period and its attendant family gatherings, it is likely that more associated cases will occur.
“There is the possibility of others incubating the disease, so we will be continuing to closely monitor for additional cases,” he said.
The need to offer vaccination on this wider scale was seen as an important outbreak control measure. In similar situations overseas vaccination on this scale has proved effective in resolving an outbreak.
“Those vaccinated today, will be asked to have a booster shot in six months time. This will provide long lasting immunity.”
“Hand washing after going to the toilet or changing babies nappies and before handling food is the key to prevention not only of hepatitis but of a number of other enteric (bowel) infections, as well as diseases such as influenza and the common cold,” Dr Brieseman said.
“This is the most important lesson to learn for the community as a whole from this situation and is a reminder that the basic principles of basic hygiene are essential.”