New legislation on notification and management of infectious diseases Thursday, 15 December 2016

Source: Ministry of Health, 13 December 2016

New infectious disease notification and management legislation is coming into force on 4 January 2017.  

As well as updating the Health Act 1956 and replacing the Health (Infectious and Notifiable Disease) Regulations and Schedules, it: 

  • extends notification of disease responsibilities to health practitioners with a relevant scope of practice
  • requires notifiers to leave out the case's name, address, place of work or education, and contact details of the case when the relevant disease is HIV, AIDS, gonorrhoea or syphilis (Section C diseases on Part 1, Schedule 1 of the Health Act)
  • provides a new suite of public health measures geared to the public health risk, in order to manage cases and contacts with or suspected of having infectious diseases.  As well as voluntary measures, these include written directions, court orders, urgent administrative orders detaining the person for 72 hours, and as a last resort, prosecution.  These are supported by overarching principles (eg, proportionality), human rights safeguards such as rights of review and appeal, and privacy protections
  • provides for formal contact tracing, usually to be done where appropriate by medical officers of health, Health Protection Orders, DHBs, or person suitably qualified in health or community work under their nomination.  Formal contact tracing is authorised only when the statutory purpose of contact tracing is met, the option of the individual doing their own contact tracing is not considered appropriate, reasons are given for requiring the information, and identity is protected as far as practicable.  The obligation to provide the information is backed up by an offence provision 
  • repeals tuberculosis specific legislation and mainstreams notification and management of this disease within the Health Act and
  • repeals outdated venereal disease legislation, and legislatively recognises HIV and chlamydia as 'infectious diseases' to which follow up public health measures can be applied.

The IT and related updates to notification processes will not all be fully functional by 4 January 2017, and a phased roll-out is planned for 'Section C diseases'.  In the interim AIDS will continue to be notified by clinicians (as is done currently) to the local medical officer of health;  laboratories will report HIV infection directly to the AIDS Epidemiology Group and gonorrhoea cases directly to ESR; and syphilis reporting will be limited to Sexual Health and Family Planning Clinics.  Primary health care providers will be informed by their local medical officers of health as the new arrangements are progressively introduced in early 2017.

 

Furhter information can be found here.