Gastro bugs plaguing south

CASSANDRA POKONEY
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

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War is being declared on a spate of gastro bugs running rampant in the south.

An unusually high number of gastro bugs has prompted the Southern District Health Board to investigate a "surveillance" system to identify outbreaks and determine whether interventions are working.

A report to the health board's disability support advisory committee and community and public health advisory committee says that from the beginning of May until June 4, Public Health South investigated 11 outbreaks of gastroenteritis at two early childhood centres, one disability support home, six rest homes, Clutha Health First and two wards in Dunedin Hospital.

Outbreaks within facilities represented a significant threat to the health of vulnerable people, while outbreaks within hospitals were a serious breach of the hospital's duty of care and highlighted a need for system responses, the report says.

Recent events had shown the need to rapidly develop a surveillance system for all healthcare facility-acquired infections within the southern district.

The aim of the system would be to capture information on the infections and provide analysis and information so action could be taken to reduce infection levels and promote preventative actions, the report says.

It would also identify whether interventions were working.

A district infection prevention and control team had already identified measures that could help identify and respond to infections.

These included mandatory reporting of all healthcare facility-acquired infections in health board settings and health board-contracted providers, using analysis to identify systemic problems related to acquired infections, using performance reporting to provide feedback to service providers, and developing better communication between sectors in relation to infection control matters and the management of patients as they moved between providers.

Medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said the system was still in the proposal stage and significant further development would be required before it could become operational.

However, it was important that organisations recognised outbreaks early so measures could be put in place to limit their spread.

The number of gastro outbreaks in the past few months had been unusually high, particularly around Dunedin, but the organisations affected had been quick to work with Public Health South and introduce infection control practices, she said.

The number of outbreaks was often higher in winter because the bugs were highly contagious and people tended to live in closer proximity in the colder weather, Poore said.

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RECENT OUTBREAKS

Public Health South investigated 11 outbreaks of gastro bugs between the start of May and June 4, including two early childhood centres, one disability support home, six rest homes, Clutha Health First and two wards at Dunedin Hospital.

In total, 252 people have been unwell, including 171 patients/residents, 19 children and 62 staff at these various facilities.

In five of these outbreaks, norovirus was found to be the cause.

Lab results are pending on other outbreaks.

Norovirus can be a very serious infection in the elderly and very young, with high levels of morbidity and mortality.

Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea, stomach cramps, headache, low-grade fever, chills and muscle aches.

Source: Southern District Health Board and Ministry of Health. 


- The Southland Times

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