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One dead in Auckland typhoid outbreak

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/04/2017

New Zealanders should have been told sooner that a woman had died from a typhoid outbreak in Auckland, Labour leader Andrew Little says.

The woman died last Tuesday, three days before health authorities revealed there was an outbreak.

Her funeral was held on Monday, the same day officials confirmed 15 members of her Mt Roskill Samoan Assembly of God church had contracted the disease.

Two further cases are awaiting test results.

The woman had been hospitalised with other serious health issues, and the typhoid was a complicating factor, health authorities say.

"I think we're entitled to know a little earlier than that," Mr Little said on Tuesday.

"They've certainly let us know they have concerns about incidents of typhoid and now what looks like a typhoid outbreak - if there was a fatality as a result they should have told us."

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman agrees there were communication issues and the Auckland District Health Board should have released details more quickly.

"It would be good to release information in a timely and appropriate manner, but there may be reasons why they didn't release it sooner," he told the NZ Herald.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service clinical director Julia Peters said 60 people within the woman's church group were being followed up with in regard to the outbreak.

She said the outbreak was isolated and it was not known how it got to Auckland.

But it's understood a person travelling overseas may have contracted the disease, which can lie dormant for some time, and it was not spread until their return to New Zealand.

There were 42 recorded notifications of typhoid in New Zealand in 2014 and 43 in 2015.

Prime Minister Bill English said he understood authorities had all the right "tools" to isolate the disease, which was thought to have been eradicated from New Zealand.

"I haven't been advised that there won't be any further spread of the disease, but I have been advised that officials have a process for dealing with the cases," he said.

"Of course we'd all prefer there were no cases and I certainly hope it stops spreading because as we can see it can have a fatal impact."

Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food contaminated by the faeces of an infected person.

Symptoms include a high fever, stomach pain, diarrhoea, headache and cough.

There have been a number of recorded outbreaks in New Zealand's history but were contained in the 20th century because of improved sanitation conditions.

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