Controlling the spread of infectious diseases
Community and Public Health is responsible for investigating cases of infectious diseases, as well as controlling their spread within our community. The goal is to reduce future occurrences of infectious disease.
Community and Public Health compiles and reports data on infectious disease trends for our region (disease surveillance).
Staff are also prepared to deal with large local, regional or national outbreaks or health emergencies. Examples include a national flu pandemic or the threat of water-borne diseases in the Christchurch Earthquake aftermath.
Avoid mosquitos bites if travelling to the Pacific
The Ministry of Health is urging travellers to the Pacific to avoid mosquito bites. There are outbreaks of dengue fever in the Pacific at the moment. An increased number of dengue cases have been recorded in the Auckland region among travellers returning from Fiji, Samoa and Tonga since November 2017.
Dengue fever is a viral disease spread by the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Dengue fever cannot be spread from person-to-person.
Dengue fever symptoms can last from two to seven days and usually include:
- a sudden fever;
- an intense headache (especially behind the eyes);
- muscle and joint pain;
- feeling very tired;
- nausea or vomiting; and
- a skin rash.
You should see a doctor and drink plenty of fluids if you get these symptoms while you travel or if you have recently travelled.
You should use paracetamol against fever and pain – do not use aspirin and ibuprofen as they can increase the risk of bleeding from the infection.
Some infectious diseases must be reported
The Health Act 1956 requires medical practices and other agencies or institutions, to report the following notifiable disease types to the local Medical Officer of Health:
- Common enterics (such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Yersinia);
- Serious enteric (such as Typhoid, Shigella, Cholera, Paratyphoid, Listeria, Hepatitis A);
- Vaccine preventable (such as Measles, Mumps, Pertussis/Whooping Cough, Rubella); and
- Other Serious (such as Meningitis, Legionella, Mosquito borne diseases, Avian Influenza, Hepatitis B and C).
The Communicable Disease Team’s response depends on the seriousness of the disease, and could involve:
- A postal or phone questionnaire, hospital visit and/or interview
- Taking samples from an infected person to discover if they are contagious or are no longer infected.
- An investigation into the source of the infection.
- Offering preventative medication to people who have been in contact with an infected person.
Prevention is better than cure
Infectious disease prevention is also a big priority for Community and Public Health. The National Immunisation Programme for children is important in protecting against diseases such as measles. Another valuable vaccination programme is the annual influenza vaccination for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and chronically ill.
Medical Officers of Health are responsible for authorising vaccinators, and Communicable Disease staff can provide advice on immunisation issues.
Help us keep gastro bugs at bay!
Community and Public Health wants to reduce the chances of people becoming seriously ill due to a serious gastro bug such as Cryptosporidum (commonly known simply as Crypto) this summer. Other possible water-borne infections include Norovirus, Giardia and E.coli and all of these are also very unpleasant and potentially dangerous.
The main infection pathway for gastro bugs is contact with infected or polluted water. This can occur when someone shares a swimming pool or spa with a person who has had a recent infection and isn’t completely better. People wrongly assume chlorine will kill everything, but Crypto is resistant to the standard chlorine dosages you find in most pools!
Most people who contract a gastro infection experience symptoms such as watery diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea, vomiting and fever. Others with weakened immune systems can develop a serious, chronic, and sometimes fatal illness.
These symptoms can occur on and off for weeks – so we are asking people to respect a stand-down period of two weeks during which they should avoid swimming or sharing a spa. This is to ensure they are fully recovered and no longer infectious.
The key things to remember are:
- Stay away from pools and spas for at least two weeks after you feel better – if you’ve had a gastro bug.
- Always shower before entering the water – even if you haven’t been ill.
- Report any ‘code browns’ immediately. Pool staff can clean as needed and apply a stronger dose of chlorine to the area to make it safe.
Contact the Communicable Disease staff at your local office for further information:
Ph: +64 3 364 1777
Fax: +64 3 379 6484
Ph: +64 3 687 2600
Fax: +64 3 688 6091
Ph: +64 3 768 1160
Fax: +64 3 768 1169
Become an Authorised Vaccinator
Community and Public Health deals with applications and renewals for authorised vaccinators and vaccination centres.
Shingles vaccine for older adults
Shingles is a painful rash affecting a particular nerve. It is a long term effect of chickenpox many years after people recover from the disease.
Shingles usually occurs in older people and lasts from 10 to 15 days. The nerve pain can last long after the rash disappears.
A vaccine against shingles (Zostavax) is now free at age 65 in New Zealand. Anyone aged from 66 to 80 is also eligible for a free shingles vaccine until 31st March 2020.
Signage for organisers of A&P Shows
The following signs were developed by Community and Public Health for use in areas at A&P Shows where people (especially children) have close contact with animals – such as petting areas or stock display pens.
These signs encourage not eating or drinking in these areas and washing or sanitising hands after touching animals. Print and laminate these signs for your next A&P Show.
Contact your local office about borrowing hand sanitiser stands for your upcoming A&P Show.
Travel Health and Vaccination
Community and Public Health no longer provides information on vaccinations for overseas travel.
Contact your local medical practice or a specialist travel medicine clinic (as listed in the Medical section of the White Pages) for more information.