Hepatitis A has been diagnosed in three children from two families associated with Edna McCulloch Kindergarten in Oamaru.

Public Health South are investigating these cases and working with the kindergarten to understand if any other families might be affected and to offer vaccination to the children who attend the kindergarten.

A programme of blood testing and vaccination will take place next week.

Dr Keith Reid, Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health says: “It is not clear where the infection originated but we don’t think the kindergarten is the source of the infections. I have advised the kindergarten to continue to operate normally during our investigation.”

Dr Reid today met with parents and kindergarten staff to help them understand the situation. No other educational facilities are involved.

“We are undertaking this blood testing to get a picture as to whether other families at the kindergarten might be affected, then we can offer them appropriate support and treatment. The vaccination is intended to prevent any spread of the infection.”

Hepatitis A is a viral illness that is not common in New Zealand. The virus is acquired by eating or drinking food or water which is contaminated with the virus. The infection can also be spread by close contact with an infected person.

In young children, the infection can occur with no outward signs of infection and may be passed on silently. However, in older adults or those with underlying health conditions the disease can be serious.

The illness occurs between 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus. In those who become unwell, there is sudden onset of an illness with tiredness and fever, nausea and abdominal pain for a few days and followed by jaundice and/or dark urine. 

Those with Hepatitis A can pass on the infection while they are unwell and for a week after the onset of jaundice.

The best way to prevent the spread of Hepatitis A is through good hand hygiene - washing hands before and after preparing food and after going to the toilet.

If you have further questions please contact Healthline 0800 611 116 (free and 24 hours).

Hepatitis A Fact Sheet

  • Hepatitis A is a viral illness, acquired from consuming contaminated food or water. It can also be spread through close contact with an infected person.
  • Hepatitis A infection can cause an unpleasant illness but most people fully recover.
  • The virus is uncommon in New Zealand and vaccination is not part of the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule.
  • Symptoms include sudden tiredness and fever, nausea and abdominal pain, followed by jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and dark urine.
  • Symptoms can appear 15 to 50 days after infection.
  • Hepatitis A can be passed on while the infected person is unwell and for a week after the onset of jaundice.
  • Vaccination with Havrix or Havrix junior is used to help prevent infection by Hepatitis A. 
  • A blood test is used to determine if a person has contracted the virus. Inoculation is not effective for anyone carrying the virus, even if asymptomatic.
  • Inoculation is recommended only for persons who have had close personal contact with someone confirmed to be infected with the virus. 
  • To prevent the spread of the virus, wash hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, before preparing food and eating food, and after handling soiled linen. Avoid sharing food, cutlery, crockery, and drinks.