News & Events
To swim or not to swim?
Recent hot weather serves as a good reminder that the end of January and right through the month of February is typically the hottest period of the year for us here in Canterbury.
These hotter temperatures make taking a dip in a nice cool swimming pool very appealing. School pools will become especially popular as the start of the school year approaches.
The main way people can become ill from a pool is through contact with infected or polluted water. Cantabrians are being urged to stay out of the water if they’ve been sick or are feeling unwell to help reduce the chances of other people getting sick.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink explains that people assume chlorine will kill everything. However Cryptosporidium and Giardia in particular are resistant to the standard chlorine dosages you find in most pools.
“People can become ill by sharing a swimming pool or spa with a person who has had a recent gastro infection and hasn’t fully recovered from the illness.
“Most people who contract gastro infections experience symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea, vomiting and fever. Others with weakened immune systems can develop serious chronic and sometimes fatal illness.
“These symptoms can occur on and off for weeks. This is why we are asking people to respect a stand-down period of two weeks after their symptoms subside – during which they should avoid swimming in pools or sharing a spa. This is to ensure they have fully recovered and are no longer infectious,” says Dr Pink.
Key things to remember before you go to the pool or spa
- Stay away from pools and spas for at least two weeks after you feel better.
- Always shower before entering the pool – even if you haven’t been ill.
- Report any ‘code browns’ immediately. Community pool operators can clean as needed and apply a stronger dose of chlorine to the area to make it safer.
Source: Canterbury DHB media release (27th January 2021).
Keep cool and hydrated to beat the heat
Cantabrians are being urged to watch the weather forecast closely this summer so they can put the right plans in place to stay cool and hydrated.
The La Niña weather system often brings higher than average temperatures and heatwave conditions can occur.
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says these higher temperatures can be harmful to our health and we must take care not to overheat, a condition which can prove fatal.
“It’s especially important to stay out of the sun where possible, avoid extreme physical exertion and ensure pets and people are not left alone in stationary cars.
“We are all vulnerable to hot temperatures, but some people are particularly at risk. This includes the elderly, infants and children, women who are pregnant, people suffering from chronic, acute and severe illness,” says Dr Pink.
However, there are some simple steps that we can all take to reduce the risk to our health when the temperatures are high. They include:
- Avoiding going outside during the hottest time of the day;
- Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine;
- Wearing lightweight, loose-fitting, light coloured cotton clothes; and
- Staying in the shade where possible.
Dr Pink says people whose work involves strenuous physical activity outdoors should be particularly vigilant to avoid overheating in hot weather.
“It’s important people exposed to hot weather for long periods of time carry water with them and sip at least half a litre an hour, allow for more breaks in the shade, reapply sunscreen every two hours and schedule the hardest work in the coolest part of the day.
“Be SunSmart (Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap) if you have to go outside. Keep your house cool by closing curtains on windows getting direct sun, opening windows to get a breeze if it’s cooler out than in, and consider using the cool cycle on heat pumps,” says Dr Pink.
If it’s not possible to keep your home cool, then try to spend a few hours of the day in a cool place – such as an air-conditioned public building, marae or church as these tend to be cool in summer.
People should keep medicines below 25°C degrees or in the fridge – read the storage instructions on the packaging.
What to do if you or someone else feels unwell or you are concerned
You may be dehydrated if you feel dizzy, weak or have an intense thirst or headache. Drink some water and rest in a cool place.
Seek medical advice if symptoms persist or you’re concerned about your or someone else’s health. You can call your general practice team 24/7 for care around the clock – after hours a nurse can provide free health advice, and tell you what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently.
Call 111 in a life-threatening emergency.
Look out for the symptoms of heat distress
Look after each other and keep an eye out for your mates who may not be aware that they are getting overheated. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include:
- A throbbing headache;
- Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea;
- Slow responses or fatigue;
- Not sweating despite the heat;
- Muscle cramps or weakness; and
- Loss of consciousness.
Source: Canterbury DHB media release (25th January 2021).
Be a Guardian of the Future: Get a free measles immunisation
People aged between 15 and 30 who haven’t had their MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine are urged to get a free immunisation now – even if they’re not sure.
More than 2,000 Kiwis got sick from measles in 2019 and more than 700 needed hospital treatment.
“The measles outbreak in 2019 and the current COVID-19 pandemic have shown the impact infectious diseases can have when we are not immune,” says Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Ramon Pink. “Now is the time to catch up on the vaccinations we have easy access to such as MMR, to protect our community and whānau in the future.”
People born between 1990 and 2005 are most at risk of catching measles – since many didn’t have their scheduled childhood MMR vaccinations. So you are more likely to catch measles and also spread it to others. This is why there is now a national catch-up programme focusing on improving your immunity.
Protect yourself and others against this highly infectious disease
“Measles is more than eight times more infectious than COVID-19. It can make you very sick and affect your health for the rest of your life. Getting a catch-up dose now will make sure you and those around you are protected in the future,” says Dr Pink.
About ninety-five percent of people will be protected by just one dose of MMR. Two doses ensures more than 99 percent of people are protected. The vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella. It is safe to have an MMR even if you are unsure if you have been fully immunised.
“We’re urging everyone aged 15 to 30 years old to get at least one MMR vaccination to help prevent future outbreaks of measles,” says Dr Pink. “Ask your doctor, parents or caregiver if you had two doses of MMR as a kid. If you didn’t or aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to get one MMR dose now.”
Get your for your free measles catch up jab at your local General Practice team in Canterbury and the West Coast. You can also get an MMR catch up from some pharmacies if you are over 16.
MMR is also part of the childhood immunisation schedule. Anyone born after 1969 is still eligible for two free MMR doses.
Source: Canterbury DHB CEO Update (28th September 2020) and West Coast DHB media release (13th October 2020).
Information on COVID-19
It is not time for us to ease up on our precautions against COVID-19. We’ve been through a lot, and we will get through this too. We’re stronger together.
Protect yourself and others from COVID-19
Stay home if you feel unwell. Isolate wherever you are and call Healthline (0800 358 5453) about a free COVID-19 test. Getting tested will help keep your community safe.
Keep a track of where you’ve been and who you’ve seen. This will help health services to quickly stop any possible spread.
Scan QR codes using the NZ COVID Tracer app – available from the Apple Store or Google Play- and enable Bluetooth tracking on your device.
Use the NZ COVID Tracer booklet – available in English and other languages – or keep a diary or calendar if you can’t use the app.
Wash your hands with soap and water often – for at least 20 seconds – and dry thoroughly. This kills the virus by bursting its protective bubble.
Cough or sneeze into your elbow. This will keep the virus off your hands so you won’t spread it to other people and make them sick too.
Regularly clean surfaces that get touched frequently.
Maintain physical distancing. Keep a safe distance from people you don’t know while out and about. This will help minimise spread if community transmission returns.
Wear a face covering when on a flight. You will be keeping your community safe by covering for each other.
What to do if you feel unwell
Stay home if you’re unwell. Don’t go to work or school. Don’t socialise.
Call your medical practice or Healthline (0800 358 5453) if you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms. This is to check if you fit the criteria and need to get tested for COVID-19.
The symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- a new or worsening cough;
- shortness of breath;
- a sore throat;
- sneezing and a runny nose; or
- a temporary loss of smell.
How to get tested for COVID-19
You can be tested for COVID-19 at most general practices, an after hours urgent care facility or a community-based assessment centre (CBAC).
You can attend a community-based assessment centre if your medical practice does not provide testing or if you are not registered with a medical practice team. You do not need an appointment to attend a community based assessment centre.
Tip: You can also use the NZ COVID Tracer app to find your nearest testing centre. Open the Dashboard and tap the ‘Learn more’ tile. Then tap the ‘Find a testing location’ link to bring up Healthpoint’s list of testing centres.
Testing is free, unless you require a test for travel overseas. You must contact a medical practice if you need a COVID-19 test to travel overseas.
Update on the COVID-19 vaccine
MedSafe granted provisional consent to use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in New Zealand on 3rd February 2021.
“The provisional approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a positive step in New Zealand’s fight against COVID-19. It means we can now begin preparations for the first stage in our vaccination roll-out,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Provisional consent means the pharmaceutical company must meet certain conditions, including supplying more data from its clinical trials around the world as they progress. This will happen at the same time as the vaccine is rolled out. Provisional approval is not uncommon. For instance the annual influenza vaccine is given provisional approval for the same reason.
The Government has four Advance Purchase Agreements for COVID-19 vaccines including one for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. MedSafe is currently reviewing one other vaccine.
Update on the COVID-19 Immunisation Programme
The COVID-19 Immunisation Programme is continuing to work at pace to be ready to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is approved by Medsafe and ready for use. The timing of the rollout will also depend on when the suppliers can deliver it.
The COVID-19 vaccine will be free of charge and will not be mandatory for Kiwis.
Border and MIQ workers and the people they live with will be the first group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine – currently expected to be in March or April. This reflects the critical role they play, standing between the people of Aotearoa New Zealand and those who might unwittingly bring the virus into our communities, and the higher risk that represents. Mandatory testing of border and MIQ workforce will continue after vaccination.
The Ministry of Health expects vaccines will be available for the general public in the second half of the year – subject to supply.
“We have come far in the fight against COVID; getting vaccinated is key to locking in the gains we have made and protecting our hard won freedoms,” Jacinda Ardern said.
Christchurch Airport border workers receiving COVID-19 vaccinations
Stuff.co.nz news article: 24th February 2021
About 40 border workers at Christchurch International Airport are among the first in the city to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
A Ministry of Health statement said the group included aviation security workers, cleaners, police, Customs workers and health protection officers who screen passengers arriving on international flights.
Health Protection Officer Debbie Smith said getting the COVID-19 vaccine felt like ‘another level of armour’ against the virus.
“I feel like a superhero on the inside now. Working on the frontline, you tend to live your life differently. There have been events I’ve thought twice about going to because of the potential risk I pose and that’s where the vaccination is going to let me live my life a little bit more normally.”
Fellow Health Protection Officer Jimmy Wong said getting vaccinated was a huge relief because it meant greater protection for his family, particularly his 3-month-old baby.
Stay informed from reliable sources about COVID-19
- Visit your local DHB website for important hospital and health hub information, such as visitor restrictions, parking and shuttle services.
- Visit your local council website for information on their essential services (such as rubbish and recycling collection or public transport) and also about upcoming rates payments.
Local public health response to novel coronavirus COVID-19
Community and Public Health stood up their Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) in just two hours in late January 2020 in response to COVID-19 with staff ceasing ‘business as usual’ work. Every effort, hour and individual has been focused on the response since then, and will likely be the last organisation to wind down. Our staff have been involved in the local COVID-19 response in many ‘behind the scenes’ ways across Canterbury, South Canterbury, West Coast and the Chatham Islands.