Support provided for gastro illness

Media release

16 August 2016

The locally led health response to the gastro outbreak in Havelock North is being supported by the Ministry of Health and other government agencies. 

Ministry of Health Director-General Chai Chuah says the Ministry has convened the National Health Coordination Centre which includes science, medical and wider health expertise and is well linked in to those dealing with the response locally and centrally.  He says health professionals working locally have responded well to help deal with the many local people affected. 

The support requested by the DHB has resulted in three Ministry of Health staff - a public health water engineer, an emergency manager and a communications advisor - now working with the local DHB in Hastings. 

Other agencies are working behind the scenes to ensure appropriate support, advice and action in Hastings – particularly the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management working with organisations to ensure appropriate support for vulnerable people affected by the water contamination outbreak. 

The Ministry convened a meeting yesterday bringing together six relevant government departments to ensure central and local agencies were well joined up and appropriate support provided.

The DHB and the local Council are using a range of methods to try to keep the public up to date with developments. This includes social media and media briefings as well as distributing information leaflets. A phone survey developed by ESR in conjunction with the Ministry of Health is expected to get underway tonight (Tuesday). This will monitor the outbreak and assess whether people are receiving appropriate advice. 

As with all public health events, people are encouraged to check in on their friends, family and neighbours. 

The Ministry of Health is working with the Hastings District Council over its plans for an inquiry into the outbreak.   

Other agencies such as the Ministry for Primary Industries have also been involved to ensure potential risks to the food supply from the contaminated water are being properly managed. Current work indicates risks are being appropriately managed.  Some horticultural growers are still being contacted. 

The Ministry of Education has been working with local early childhood services and schools to best manage closures as a result of the outbreak.  All local schools, and three early learning services are currently closed. Updates on closures are provided on individual school websites or Facebook pages. 

Ministry of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Simpson says there is a good level of provision of information to the media and the public about the local response from daily media updates being coordinated by the DHB and Council, with their latest media briefing this morning at 11.30am. 

The main health advice to people locally is to boil water (or use bottled water) used for food preparation, drinking and cleaning teeth, follow a good hand-washing routine to stop any spread of disease and to ring Healthline on 0800 611 116 for health advice. 

Healthline reports a 20% increase in calls from Hastings about the outbreak with 302 calls since Friday till 6am this morning.   

Many of the calls are from people wanting reassurance from checking with a nurse that it is taking longer to get better than they expected, or that they’re currently well but worried they may get sick. 

Healthline nurses are providing information about the disease and advice about steps people can take to stay well – such as washing hands and continuing to boil water. 

Background

The Havelock North water supply has been contaminated – affecting around 12,500 people. Test results from people have mostly returned positive for campylobacter. 
  
The type of bug isn't certain so chlorine has been added to the water supply and a boil water notice is in place. 

The local Council is testing the water on a daily basis, however the boil water notice will remain until Council and Health officials are 100 per cent satisfied the issue is resolved. 

Anecdotal reports, school reports and hospital & GP data suggest it’s understood that up to 2,000 people have been taken ill to various degrees. 
  
The health system is coping well at this stage with the increase in cases.

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