Vaccination clinics 'key to stopping hep A outbreak' Monday, 7 October 2013

The first of six hepatitis A vaccination clinics for children aged over 12 months and under five years will take place tomorrow in Ashburton.

The vaccination efforts are in response to an outbreak of hepatitis A in Ashburton, which began in April this year with 28 confirmed cases to date, ranging in age from 14 months to 53 years.

Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, is urging parents and caregivers of children aged over 12 months and under five years to get their child vaccinated.

"This hepatitis A outbreak continues to infiltrate, spreading silently through the Ashburton preschool community," Dr Humphrey says.

"Without a mass vaccination it's possible the current epidemic could last for several years."

The disease is transmitted when people fail to wash their hands properly after going to the toilet. It is often spread by preschoolers who are not as good at washing their hands.

"Often preschoolers with the disease will have no symptoms, but if they pass it on to their parents or grandparents the disease can get very serious and lead to hospitalisation."

"Hand washing is the key to preventing the transmission of hepatitis A. It's important everyone in the Ashburton community steps up and makes sure they wash their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet and before preparing food."

Dr Humphrey has been impressed at the high proportion of food premises that have provided the vaccination to their staff.

"It's great most food handling premises are choosing to vaccinate their staff. So far hepatitis A has not been passed on through contaminated food and it's important we keep it this way. If it was transmitted through contaminated food there is the potential for an explosion of hepatitis A in Ashburton and beyond," Dr Humphrey says.

Free clinics

If your child attends a preschool, an information pack with specific times to attend has been sent there for you to collect. If your child does not attend a preschool please feel free to attend any of the times below or arrange to have the vaccination at your general practice.

Tuesday, 8 October, 9.15am -6.00pm, Ashburton Trust Event Centre, 211 A Wills St, Ashburton

Wednesday, 9 October, 9.15 am -6.00pm, Ashburton Trust Event Centre, 211 A Wills St, Ashburton

Tuesday, 15 October, 9.15am- 6.00pm, St Davids Union Church, 48 Allens Rd, Ashburton

Wednesday, 16 October, 9.15am - 6.00pm, St Davids Union Church, 48 Allens Rd, Ashburton

Wednesday, 23 October, 9.30am -12.30pm, Mt Hutt Memorial Hall, Methven, Wednesday

23 October, 2.15pm -4.15pm, Rakaia Memorial Hall, Rakaia

Caregivers need to complete a consent form before attending a clinic. These can be collected from your child's preschool, your General Practice team, or can be downloaded from http://www.cdhb.health.nz/News/Pages/Vaccination-clinics-to-halt-spread-of-hep-A-.aspx