News & Events

Measles warning issued in Canterbury

19 May 2017

Stop sign with the word measles instead of stop.Health officials have issued a measles warning following a Christchurch man being confirmed to have contracted measles while holidaying in Bali.

The 23-year-old became aware of measles-like symptoms and laboratory testing confirmed measles on Thursday 18th May.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says measles is highly infectious. “The measles virus spreads easily from person to person through the air, via breathing, coughing and sneezing. It starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. This is followed by a rash that spreads over the body,” Dr Pink says.

People who aren’t fully immunised are being asked to keep a close eye out for measles symptoms. People who were in the areas listed below are urged to phone their doctor 24/7 for #carearoundtheclock if they are concerned:

  • Countdown at Northwood on Sunday 14th May (5 to 6pm)
  • Waiting room at ProMed Edgeware on Monday 15th May (11am to 1.15pm) and Tuesday 16th May (11am to 1.15pm)
  • Southern Community Laboratory Blood Test Centre at Forte Health on Monday 15th May (1 to 3pm) and Tuesday 16th May (12noon to 2pm)
  • Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department on Tuesday 16th May (3.45pm to 9pm)

“We’re asking people who haven’t been immunised and who may have been in contact with the case to keep a close eye out for these symptoms. If you develop symptoms phone a doctor and let them know that you have potentially been in contact with a confirmed measles case.”

Dr Pink and the team at Community and Public Health are busy contacting those who may have come into contact with the man to minimise the spread. The case is currently in isolation and his infectious period ends on 21st May.

“Unfortunately New Zealanders face a heightened risk of measles as a result of the decision by parents in the 1990s not to get their children immunised due to now discredited research on the link between the measles vaccine and autism.

“It is a timely reminder for everyone to check their immunisations are up-to-date. Measles cannot be treated once you get it so the only way to protect yourself is to be fully vaccinated. While it’s important to get vaccines on time, every time, it’s never too late. Speak to your doctor for more information on immunisation” Dr Pink says.

You might be immune to measles

Community and Public Health says people are considered immune if they:

  • have received two doses of MMR vaccine; or​
  • have had a previous measles illness; or
  • were born before 1969.

Source: Canterbury DHB media release (18th May 2017).

Making good habits stick with Habit Sticks

2 May 2017

All Right? campaign logoThe latest innovation from All Right? will help people do more of the things that make them happy and healthy.

All Right? manager Sue Turner says the revolutionary new All Right? Habit Stick makes it easier to make good habits stick. “If you’ve ever struggled with a resolution or maintaining a healthy habit then our free Habit Stick is for you!” says Sue.

“All you need to do is write down the habit you want to adopt and give yourself a tick on the stick every time you achieve it. Before you know it, your Habit Stick will be full of ticks and your new habit will be something you do every day without even thinking about it,” says Sue.
“It sounds simple, but it works,” says Sue.

Research shows that you’re much more likely to successfully adopt a new habit if you make it small and achievable, write it down, do it daily, and track your progress. “The Habit Stick brings all the science on successful habit formation together, helping dramatically boost your chances of success.”

Sue says good habits are important because it’s the little things we do every day that shape our lives. “While a habit can seem completely insignificant in isolation, when we do it day in and day out, year after year, the impact can really add up. Small things like getting outside more often, or eating your lunch away from your screen, make a big difference.”

Sue says Habit Sticks help encourage people to reflect on the types of things they want to do more of. “Even just stopping for a moment to think about the type of change you’d like to make is a good for you. It’s really easy to just get swept up in the day-to-day and not make time for yourself. Spending some time thinking about your habits, and making some positive changes, can change your life,” says Sue.

Make a tiny habit stick.

Source: All Right? press release (30th April 2017)

Some emergency kits a recipe for disaster

Example of a homemade emergency survival kit.It could be the little box that saves your life, which is why authorities are warning Kiwis to be wary of pre-made emergency survival kits after our consumer watchdog found some lacking.

Consumer NZ released a report on 28th April 2017 saying that some pre-made survival kits on the market they tested were more of a “recipe for disaster” than life-savers.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says while there are a couple of pre-made emergency kits worth considering, you’re generally better off building your own.

“We put together a grab bag with 3 days’ rations and all the key items you’d need to see you through for $150 – considerably less than you would pay for many of the commercial kits,” Ms Chetwin says.

“It’s also likely you could put together your own kit for less than what we paid as most households are likely to have some of the items, such as a spare backpack or water bottles.”

Example of a getaway kit if you need to leave home or work in a hurry.However, taking the first steps to emergency-preparedness is far more important than compiling the perfect getaway kit, Ms Chetwin said. Your emergency planning should cover where you will meet if you can’t get home and a backup plan if you can’t pick up the kids, as well as:

  • The name and contact details of someone who lives out of town that your family knows to contact in case the phones go down;
  • A list of family and friends who may require your assistance;
  • Plans for if you’re stuck at home, including 3 days’ worth of food and water;
  • Plans for how you’ll stay warm at night and cook food if there’s no power; and
  • Getaway kits if you need to leave in a hurry.


Source: Consumer NZ media release (28th April 2017).

Influenza: Don’t get it, don’t give it

29 March 2017

Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with influenza or ‘flu’ each year. Influenza can be anywhere, and is highly contagious. You many not feel sick at all, but can still pass the flu on to others.

Influenza is more than just a ‘bad cold’ – it is a serious illness that can put anyone in hospital or even kill them, including young and healthy people. Symptoms of influenza include a cough, headache, fever or chills, body aches and pains, fatigue and generally feeling miserable.

It is important you do not pass influenza onto those who are particularly vulnerable to influenza. Pregnant women and their babies can suffer serious consequences as a result of influenza.

Older people and those with certain medical conditions are also more likely to be affected by the flu. This is because influenza can make an existing medical condition worse (including asthma and diabetes), or increase the risk of complications such as pneumonia heart failure, and worsening asthma.

Stay at home from work, school or preschool if you have the flu so that you don’t spread it to others.

Handwashing is an important and effective way of reducing the spread of influenza.

Influenza vaccination is provided FREE for those who need it most

Getting immunised each year as early as possible before winter hits gives the best protection, and protection can last until the next year.

You need to get the flu vaccine each year as your protection lessens over time and the flu strains in the vaccine often change each year. Over a million New Zealanders get the annual immunisation against influenza.

The influenza vaccine is safe, effective and cannot give you “the flu”.

The seasonal influenza vaccine is free to eligible people who meet the following criteria:

  1. Pregnant women – at any stage or trimester in the pregnancy
  2. Anyone under 65 years with one or more of the following medical conditions:
    • Cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease
    • Chronic respiratory diseases
    • Diabetes
    • Cancer, excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive
    • Other conditions (e.g. chronic renal disease, autoimmune disease, immune suppression, human immunodeficiency virus, transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous systems diseases, haemoglobinopathies, children on long term aspirin)
  3. Anyone aged 65 years or over
  4. Children aged four years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Canterbury DHB has also made flu vaccinations free for all under 18 year olds in Kaikoura and Hurunui districts.

You can still get the influenza vaccine from your general practice or local pharmacy for a small cost if you are not eligible for a free vaccine.

Visit the Fight the Flu website for more information.

Boil water notices still in place for many Kaikoura residents

8 February 2017

Last updated: 8th May 2017

Kaikoura residents should remain vigilant in preventing gastro bugs, with the risk from damaged water infrastructure still affecting many in the district.

People in the Kaikoura District are being reminded to continue to boil their water, unless they’ve been told by the Kaikoura District Council that they no longer need to. This applies to water used for:

  • drinking,
  • cooking,
  • washing dishes,
  • brushing teeth, and
  • making ice.

People are also encouraged wash their hands and keep out of any contaminated waterways.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey says infrastructure damage from the 14th November earthquake, means boil water notices still apply to five of the eight council water supplies servicing the Kaikoura district.

“The only council water supplies safe to drink are Kaikoura township and neighbouring Ocean Ridge” Dr Humphrey says. “Boil water notices affect more than a thousand Kaikoura residents as well as anyone visiting these areas. These supplies are not secure and remain at risk of contamination.”

Dr Humphrey also says anyone outside the safe to drink areas must boil their water, or get their water tested if on a private supply (if they haven’t already). “Private water supplies must be tested quarterly, as well as after heavy rainfall and following any significant earthquakes.”

People living in or visiting the following five Kaikoura District Council areas need to boil their water:

  • Fernleigh – due to possibility of bacterial contamination;
  • Kaikoura Suburban – due to risk of bacterial contamination due to rain levels and catchment;
  • Kincaid – due to risk of bacterial contamination due to rain levels and catchment;
  • Oaro  – due to damage to pipework on individual properties and the need to install back flow preventers; and
  • Peketa  – due to significant damage and continuous low levels of bacterial contamination.

Other ways to prevent gastro bugs in the Kaikoura region

Everyone should always remain vigilant about hand washing too, Dr Humphrey says. “It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly to prevent gastro infections such as Norovirus, which can spread quickly across a community.”

Dr Humphrey also warns people to not swim, surf or consume seafood and shellfish collected in the area where Lyell Creek discharges into the ocean.

“Advice from the Kaikoura District Council on the state of wastewater infrastructure indicates people should stay away from the Lyell Creek area until further notice.”

The sewer system has been re-established along Hawthorne Road (between the bridge and Mt-Fyffe Road), and on Mt-Fyffe Road (between Hawthorne and Totara Lane). People can use their toilet and do their washing. The remaining residents without operational sewer will be advised as soon as the service is re-established.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (8th February 2017).

Smokefree Social Housing Toolkit: a guide for creating smokefree policies

4 February 2017

Smokefree Social Housing Toolkit from Community and Public Health.Community and Public Health (as a member of Smokefree Canterbury) has developed a Toolkit to assist social housing providers to implement smokefree policies in social housing settings.

Improving population health has increasingly become a shared goal across many sectors including social housing. A smokefree social housing policy can result in win-wins for tenants, housing providers, and the wider community.

The Smokefree Social Housing Toolkit draws on international research as well as on Community and Public Health’s experience working with the Christchurch City Council to implement their smokefree social housing initiative.

The Toolkit includes:

  • an evidence-based rationale for smokefree social housing, and
  • guidance on policy development and implementation (including legal perspectives, organisational philosophy, leadership, and practical policy implementation).

A novel component of the Toolkit is a schematic that brings the concepts of restrictiveness and support together. The schematic illustrates how different levels of restrictiveness and support might be practically combined to form innovative, comprehensive policy styles that can be adapted for any situation or environment.

The online version of the Toolkit is interactive – providing a number of downloadable templates, checklists, survey tools, a staff training PowerPoint presentation, and links to other resources. The full Toolkit is also available as a printable PDF booklet.

Check for health warnings before going near waterways

3 February 2017

Swimming Water QualityRecreational water users are being reminded to avoid contact with some Canterbury and South Canterbury waterways.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says health warnings remain in place where there’s potentially toxic blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in a number of areas around the regions.

“Make sure you check the health warnings for toxic algae before going near any waterways. And if in doubt, keep out.” Dr Humphrey says.

Harmful effects of toxic algae on humans and animals

Algal blooms can produce toxins harmful to humans and animals. People should avoid contact with the water where algal blooms are present until further notice. The algae is particularly dangerous for dogs.

“Animals that show signs of illness after coming into contact with toxic algae should be taken to a vet immediately. Symptoms of cyanobacteria poisoning in dogs include panting, lethargy, muscle tremors, twitching and convulsions – which usually occur within 30 minutes of exposure.”

Dr Humphrey says people who come into contact with toxic algae can also experience unpleasant symptoms. “Exposure may cause skin rashes, nausea, stomach cramps, tingling and numbness around the mouth and fingertips. If you experience any of these symptoms visit your doctor immediately and please let your doctor know if you have had contact with the water,” Dr Humphrey says.

People should never drink water from a waterway where a health warning is in place and they should also avoid eating fish and shellfish taken from areas where warnings are in place. “Boiling the water does not remove the toxin. If fish are eaten, remove the gut and liver and wash in clean water.”

Environment Canterbury Chief Scientist Dr Tim Davie says it is not possible to monitor every reach of every stream and river in Canterbury so we concentrate on sites where we know people swim. “We monitor 52 popular freshwater swimming sites in Canterbury and similar number of beaches; the results are shown on the Environment Canterbury and the LAWA websites (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa),” Dr Davie says.

“If you’re swimming at non-monitored sites then we encourage you to check the stream bottom for what look like black mats.  If there are significant black mats and particularly if bits are breaking off then you should not swim or allow dogs to the site.”

Facts about cyanobacteria

  • The algae occur naturally but can increase rapidly during warmer months.
  • Avoid all contact if the water is cloudy, discoloured, or has small globules suspended in it.
  • Not all cyanobacteria blooms are visible to the naked eye and toxins can persist after the blooms disappear.
  • Cyanobacteria concentrations can change quickly with changing environmental conditions such as wind.
  • Avoid contact with the water if a health warning is in place.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (2nd February 2017).

Page last updated: 23/02/2016

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