Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey and two Canterbury DHB health protection officers flew to Kaikoura today to provide public health support to the isolated region.
Dr Alistair Humphrey says this is a critical time for preventing infectious disease outbreaks. "Power cuts, damaged sewerage infrastructure, people sharing accommodation and a lack of access to clean drinking water can create ideal conditions for the spread of infectious diseases," Dr Humphrey says.
"We will be working to ensure people have access to the right information and that systems are in place to address any water and sanitary health issues, or psychosocial issues, that may emerge.
"It's up to everyone in and around the area most affected by the earthquakes to do everything they can to prevent disease outbreaks. Everyone needs to thoroughly wash their hands or use hand sanitiser after toileting, and before and after eating or preparing food.
"People in the affected area need to boil their drinking water or, if that's not possible, treat it with ¼ teaspoon of bleach per two litre container of water."
Dr Humphrey says anyone who is even remotely unwell should contact their GP team immediately, limit contact with other people, and not prepare food.
Dr Lucy D'Aeth, Chair of the Greater Christchurch Psychosocial Committee, says ongoing aftershocks, sleep deprivation and the enormity of the clean-up job may now begin to hit home.
D'Aeth says it's important people check on their neighbours and spend time on things, which are good for their wellbeing.
"One of the best things you can do to look after yourself is to connect with others in your community. You don't need to go through this alone.
"Helping others and giving your time can make a big difference, whether it's helping someone with a big clean up job or spending time talking to people about how they are doing.
"Doing exercise is also a proven mood booster – even a little bit can help a lot."
As part of the response to these earthquakes, additional staff have been rostered on to the Canterbury Support Line. The free phone line (0800 777 846) is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can arrange appropriate support for people affected by the earthquake.
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