19 Jun 2013

Outbreak of Hepatitis A in Ashburton

7:53 pm on 19 June 2013

Health officials say people not washing their hands properly are contributing to an outbreak of Hepatitis A in Ashburton.

The Canterbury town has had 11 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A, including four children aged under five years in the past four weeks. About 300 adults and children have now been vaccinated at three public health clinics.

Canterbury medical officer of health Ramon Pink says hand washing is key to preventing the spread of the disease. Washing and drying hands thoroughly after toileting, changing nappies and before preparing food is crucial.

Dr Pink says the spread of other illnesses, such as whooping cough and the flu, are also reduced by thorough hand washing.

Hepatitis A symptoms may include: nausea and vomiting, yellow eyes or skin (jaundice), a lack of energy, no appetite, stomach upset and pain, fever, and general aches and pains.

Anyone with a confirmed case of Hepatitis A needs to stay away from work, school or early childhood centre until they are well and it has been at least seven days after the onset of symptoms.

People with Hepatitis A should not prepare meals for others while infectious.