Ashburton families with young children are being urged to get their children vaccinated against hepatitis A sooner rather than later.
The third of six hepatitis A vaccination clinics for children aged over 12 months and under five years will take place tomorrow (October 15, 2013) in Ashburton.
The vaccination efforts are in response to an outbreak of hepatitis A in Ashburton, which began in April this year with 28 confirmed cases to date, ranging in age from 14 months to 53 years.
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says parents and caregivers of children aged over 12 months and under five years need to get their child vaccinated."We're hoping to get around 1500 children vaccinated so we are aiming to see around 200 children attend the clinic each day. There was a great response by Ashburton families on Wednesday last week when more than 230 were vaccinated, but numbers were down on the first day, probably because of the weather," Dr Humphrey says.
"It's really important that everyone with a child aged between one and under five gets them vaccinated with the free vaccine. If we do not get a good response it is possible the current epidemic could last for several years."
The disease is transmitted when people fail to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet. It is often spread by preschoolers who are not as good at washing their hands.
"Often preschoolers with the disease will have no symptoms, but if they pass it on to their parents or grandparents the disease can get very serious and lead to hospitalisation or worse. There is a significant mortality from Hep A in people aged over 50."Hand washing is the key to preventing the transmission of hepatitis A. The Ashburton community have been outstanding in their promotion of hand washing with special hand washing tutorials being run in primary schools and a buddy system for hand washing in the preschools.
"However, parents need to remain vigilant as it will be at least three months before we can say we have beaten this outbreak. We must make sure every family member washes their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before preparing food."Dr Humphrey has been impressed at the high proportion of food premises that have provided the vaccination to their staff."So far hepatitis A has not been passed on through contaminated food and it's important we keep it this way. If it was transmitted through contaminated food there is the potential for an explosion of hepatitis A in Ashburton and beyond," Dr Humphrey says.Free clinics
If your child attends a preschool, an information pack with specific times to attend has been sent there for you to collect. If your child does not attend a preschool please feel free to attend any of the times below or arrange to have the vaccination at your general practice:
Caregivers need to complete a consent form before attending a clinic. These can be collected from your child's preschool, your General Practice team, or can be downloaded from http://www.cdhb.health.nz/News/Pages/Vaccination-clinics-to-halt-spread-of-hep-A-.aspx
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