Current Issues and Health Alerts

Current Issues and Health Alerts

Current Issues and Health Alerts

Public health alerts are provided by Public Health South to help communities in the Southern Region manage and monitor local public health issues.


Wednesday 27 June 2018

In the last couple of months, Public Health South has received a large number of reports of gastroenteritis, likely viral in nature, from across the community (i.e. in rest homes, hospitals, childcare centres, schools, and the general population), including Dunedin Hospital.

In the period 1st April to 26th June, the number of notified outbreaks is twice average, with 20 compared to an average of 10 for this period, and we are also receiving a number of informal reports in addition to this. The last time figures were this high was in 2014.

The Infection Prevention and Control team have been working with the affected wards and rest homes to keep the cases under control. Please read this advice below.

Helpful advice:

  1. It's a timely reminder to put infection control measures in place as soon as you have any reason to believe a patient is suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea for which there is no definite alternative explanation. Don't wait – it's better to be cautious.
  1. Remember to always follow the five moments of hand hygiene:
  • Before patient contact
  • Before a procedure
  • After a procedure or body fluid exposure risk
  • After patient contact
  • After contact with patient surroundings
  1. If you develop vomiting or diarrhoea, it's important to contact your manager as soon as possible and stay home from work until you've been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours. You may be asked to provide a specimen as part of outbreak management.
  1. If you have recently recovered from gastroenteritis it is important to pay particular attention to hygiene, as you can remain contagious for days, if not weeks, following the resolution of symptoms.
  1. If you or anyone at home is unwell, please pay particular attention to hand hygiene:
  • Hands should be washed before handling, preparing and eating food; after going to the toilet and after changing nappies; and after coming into contact with a sick person
  • It takes 20 seconds to wash your hands properly and 20 seconds to dry (i.e. that's the same time it takes to sing 'happy birthday to me' twice). Remember, drying is just as important as washing!
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitisers can be used in addition to hand washing. But, they should not be used as a substitute for washing with soap and water.

More information about gastroenteritis and how to manage it can be found here. This can also be found on MIDAS:


June 2018

We are coming in to the ‘flu season and would like to remind health staff and others to ensure you have had the annual ‘flu vaccination.

Pregnant women are strongly advised to be immunised as pregnancy places a woman at greater risk of complications from influenza.  Influenza immunisation is completely safe and free for pregnant women at any time during their pregnancy between March and the end of December each year.

Mothers who receive the influenza vaccine while pregnant can pass protection on to their baby. The vaccine offers protection to infants who would normally be too young (under 6 months) to receive immunisation individually.

Influenza – or the flu – is a virus that spreads quickly from person to person through the air or through touch. Symptoms include fever, chills, aches, runny nose, a cough and stomach upset. While you’re unwell, stay away from work or school. Look after yourself and your family – rest and fluids are especially important.

Influenza can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus. (Symptoms for different types of flu are the same.) The seasonal influenza vaccine is altered most years to cover the particular strains of the virus that are circulating each year. 

Immunisation is your best defence against the flu along with following basic hygiene practices:

  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds and dry them for 20 seconds – or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Don’t share drinks.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze – then put the tissue in a lined bin.


June 2018

The outbreak of mumps in the SDHB region appears to be diminishing with now only sporadic reports of suspected mumps. Mumps-like symptoms can also be caused by other viruses.

We continue to strongly urge parents to ensure their children’s vaccines are up to date.

Further information on Mumps can be found on the Ministry of Health’s website.

Other information on Mumps can be found HERE

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

June 2018

Since November 2017, the Ministry of Health has declared a national outbreak of pertussis due to higher than normal notifications of suspected cases. The number of pertussis cases being notified in the SDHB region is now declining.

Pertussis is highly infectious and is spread by coughing and sneezing.    Pertussis can affect anyone, although statistically in our region it occurs more commonly in people under the age of 19.  Pertussis can be very serious for babies and children – especially those under 1 year old. For more information click HERE

We continue to strongly urge parents to ensure their children’s vaccines are up to date including the booster for pertussis at 4 and 11 years. Pregnant women are strongly urged to have a booster pertussis vaccination during every pregnancy between 28 and 38 weeks gestation which is the best way to protect their newborn from pertussis infection.

All health alerts are current and when any change in status occurs this page will be updated.