4 May 2013

Hepatitis A outbreak in Ashburton

6:15 pm on 4 May 2013

An outbreak of hepatitis A in Ashburton is being investigated to determine its cause.

The Community and Public Health (CPH) agency has confirmed five cases in Ashburton - two adults and three children in three separate households.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Cheryl Brunton says none has been linked to a recent outbreak in Christchurch and investigations into the possible source are ongoing.

Dr Brunton says vaccinations have been offered to all affected households. A vaccination clinic was held on Thursday at a preschool because one of the three children affected attends there.

CPH has also sent an alert to general practitioners in Ashburton making them aware of the outbreak.

Dr Brunton says it takes two to six weeks for symptoms to show in someone who has caught hepatitis A, which is spread by contact with the faeces of an infected person and can be passed on through:

  • Close personal contact
  • Poor personal hygiene (such as when people don't wash their hands properly)
  • Sharing personal items with an infected person (toothbrushes, facecloths, towels, etc)
  • Contaminated food - including shellfish, from infected sewage

The most infectious period is usually from two weeks before jaundice shows until one week after.

Early symptoms can be mistaken for the flu. Some people, especially children, may have no symptoms at all.