Gastro outbreak: Illness reports decline

Numbers of people struck down by gastro illness in the Hawke's Bay is declining.

However, Dr William Rainger Acting Medical Officer of Health for Hawke's Bay District Health Board says that although the numbers of people seen by general practice and in hospital is going down, people still need to continue to be vigilant with their hand hygiene.

It is estimated that more than 4,000 people in Havelock North have suffered vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, muscle pain and fever from drinking the town's water when it was contaminated with campylobacter bacteria.

The DHB said yesterday interim results from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research suggests contamination from cattle and other four-legged farm animals may have been in the water.

As of today the district health board had 153 confirmed notifications of campylobacter and 356 probable making a total of 509.

"All the evidence we are seeing, since the water was chlorinated, is that outbreak is waning and there is no evidence of a second wave," Rainger says.

Hospitalisations to Hawke's Bay Hospital are currently sitting at seven in general wards and there are no patients in Intensive Care. There were two presentations to the Emergency Department of people with gastro illness overnight.

GPs saw about 30 patients yesterday and for St John it was business as usual.

The boil water notice remains in place for Havelock North only, he says.

Aged Residential Care is reporting that their numbers were also decreasing, however there are anecdotal reports of a few in aged residential care where their symptoms have returned.

GPs also remind women that diarrhoea increases the risk of the contraceptive pill failing so they need to take extra contraception to prevent them getting pregnant if they have diarrhoea.

People with underlying medical conditions and older people may have the illness for longer and therefore there could be a recurrence of symptoms.

Rainger says there are two illnesses which can be associated with campylobacter.

Reactive Arthritis was one and while it was painful and affected more than one joint it would usually respond well to anti-inflammatories and treatment from a GP.

The other, which is rare, is Guillain Barrē syndrome a neurological condition which hospital specialists are all trained and well equipped to treat should it arise. Information and reminders to be on the watch for these two illnesses has been sent to health professionals in Hawke's Bay.

He urges people that aren't getting better or are feeling worse to see their doctor or call Healthline 0800 611 116.

- NZ Herald

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