Ashburton Hep A outbreak looks to be over

Tuesday December 3, 2013

Canterbury health officials have congratulated the Ashburton community for their efforts in ending the hepatitis A outbreak.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says Community and Public Health is confident the outbreak has ended as there have been more than two incubation periods since the last notified case.

"It looks like the combined efforts of the community have beaten this serious disease. It's a terrific result. With the Summer holidays coming up, it will be reassuring for parents to know that their children will not be spreading Hep A to other parts of New Zealand and beyond."

The seventh public vaccination clinic for children aged over 12 months and under five years was held last Wednesday (November 27, 2013), bringing the total number of vaccinated preschoolers to 1145.

"We have vaccinated more than 70 percent of children aged between 1 and 4 in the Ashburton district," Dr Humphrey says. 

"Effectively we now have what we call 'herd immunity' among Ashburton preschoolers, which means that the chain of infection has been broken and hepatitis A can no longer spread through, or from, the preschool community."

Dr Humphrey says outbreaks like these can typically last at least two years or more.

"The response of the Ashburton community to this threat has been outstanding and they deserve all the credit for stopping the spread," he says. 

"As well as turning out in large numbers for the preschool vaccination clinics, schools and preschools have been setting up hand-washing buddy systems and 'hand-washing tutorials' and many Ashburton businesses have vaccinated their food handling staff."

The outbreak of hepatitis A in Ashburton began in April. There have been at least 28 cases, ranging in age from 14 months to 53 years old.

Page last reviewed: 04 December 2013