As many as 31 children have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A as public health officials warn that the number may increase.
As these cases are affecting school age children, the health officials are working with nine schools and affected parents to assess risk and provide advice.
“This is an evolving situation and an increase in cases was expected following the assessment of close contacts,” Dr Shanika Perera, Medical Officer of Health for Auckland Regional Public Health Service says.
The most likely source of the outbreak is one or more importations of infection due to people travelling overseas, says the Health Service.
Hepatitis A is a mild illness, particularly in children. Symptoms in children usually include fever, an upset stomach, and feeling tired and generally unwell. Many children do not show any signs that they have been infected. Very occasionally children develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Hepatitis A is excreted from the body through faeces, it can be spread from person-to-person or by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated. The best way to prevent the spread of the infection is careful hand washing with soap and proper drying, especially after using the toilet and before eating.
“The most important way to prevent spread of this disease is to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating.” said Dr Perera.
For advice on hand washing visit the Health Service website
What is Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is an infection affecting the liver. Hepatitis A is caused by a virus, which is found in the bowel motions of those with the infection. It can be spread from person-to-person or by swallowing food or water that has been contaminated. Hepatitis A usually causes a mild illness in children who often do not show any symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
It can take a few weeks after coming into contact with Hepatitis A before a person who has caught the infection starts to feel unwell. The time between contact and first symptoms can be 2-7 weeks.
The symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include:
Generally feeling unwell; Tiredness and lack of energy; Loss of appetite; Stomach upsets and pains; Diarrhoea
How do you catch Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is spread by:
Food, water or milk being contaminated
Close personal contact and poor personal hygiene
Eating or drinking things handled by an infected person
How can the spread of Hepatitis A be prevented?
Careful Hand Washing: The best way to prevent the spread of infection is careful hand washing.
Wash hands with soap and dry them well
Wash hands after using the toilet, before preparing food, and before eating anything.