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Health service investigates Hepatitis A cluster

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland Regional Public Health Service is currently investigating a cluster of Hepatitis A cases within the region. As of 09.00am this morning there have been 19 confirmed cases.

As this outbreak does involve school aged children we have been working closely with the schools providing public health advice for staff and parents, we will continue working with them as the situation evolves.

Fortunately Hepatitis A is usually a mild illness in children with complete recovery and no ongoing health effects. Symptoms in children usually include fever, an upset stomach, and feeling tired and generally unwell. Many children do not show any signs that they have been infected. Very occasionally children develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Dr Shanika Perera says "If a parent is concerned that their child may have been exposed to Hepatitis A infection and they are unwell, we ask that they stay away from school, childcare centers and social events and contact their doctor. Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test."

Teenagers and adults are usually more unwell than children with Hepatitis A. Fortunately recovery is complete without leaving permanent damage.

We have a large team working to manage this evolving situation, as cases are confirmed, assessments are made and close contacts are identified we will be in touch with affected schools and parents to provide information and advice.

Dr Perera says "At this time it is unknown how the disease was initially contracted, we are currently working with the cases to determine the source of the disease and prevent further spread."

Hepatitis A is excreted from the body through feaces, it can be spread from person-to-person or by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated. The best way to prevent the spread of the infection is careful hand washing with soap and proper drying, especially after using the toilet and before eating.

"Hepatitis A is an uncommon disease in New Zealand but to keep it that way we need to contain the spread, regular handwashing with soap and warm water then drying thoroughly is the simplest way to prevent spread" said Dr Perera.

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