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Good Hand Hygiene Best Way to Prevent Illnesses

Good Hand Hygiene Best Way to Prevent Illnesses

6 October 2008

Good hand hygiene is key to keeping at bay a series of illnesses that are prevalent in the community around this time of year, according to Public Health South Medical Officer of Health, Dr Marion Poore.


This September there have been 14 notifications of cases of Cryptosporidiosis in Southland compared to 10 in September 2007.

Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection most commonly seen in springtime in people who have close contacts with animals or who are exposed to contaminated water.  It often causes profuse diarrhoea.  The illness does not usually require treatment apart from re-hydration but careful hygiene is required to prevent it spreading to others.  Strict attention to thorough hand washing and drying is essential and cases should not visit public swimming pools for a fortnight after the symptoms subside.

Dr Poore said the number of cases tends to rise further in October with 27 notifications for October 2007. Notifications typically represent only a fraction of the actual number of cases in the community.

She advised that the region was seeing the start of an increase in notifications of Cryptosporidiosis infection that happens each spring. “So far, most cases are in dairy farm workers or young children living on dairy farms. There has been no link observed between the Southland cases.”

This comes on top of other winter illness. Southland schools participating in the surveillance programme reported that an average of 23% of students were absent from illness in August. This was due to a mixture of respiratory and gastro-enteric illness.

The sentinel General Practice surveillance programme reported increased rates of influenza – like – illness in late August and September although not to epidemic levels. This year in New Zealand 756,000 people had the influenza vaccination, a 1.5% increase on 2007 figures. In Southland 16,100 people were vaccinated against influenza this year, 540 more than in 2007.

Dr Poore said good hand hygiene is the best way of preventing these illnesses and it is timely to remind everyone of the importance of this simple action.

“Other ways of reducing the spread of illness are to cover your cough and dispose of tissues properly, to stay home when you are sick and to undertake regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces such as bench tops and door handles.”


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