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To soon to point fingers on gastro bug

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/08/2016

It could be days before the exact cause of the Havelock North gastro outbreak that has affected thousands and hospitalised almost two dozen people is known.

Tests have confirmed campylobacter possibly from animal faeces was found in the drinking water but it's not yet clear whether it has come from local farm animals or who is to blame.

The Hawke's Bay District Health Board says the gastro outbreak is "unprecedented" in size and impact.

Twenty-three people are in hospital, including two in a critical condition, and it's still unclear whether the death of a woman from gastro in a Havelock North rest home is related.

Prime Minister John Key has been briefed by senior officials including director-general of health Chai Chua who has convened the National Health Co-ordination Centre.

"They were able to put me in a position of making sure all the appropriate government support is being given to the people of Havelock North," Mr Key told reporters on Tuesday morning.

"The best advice we have at the moment is about 2000 people have likely been affected, with a couple of dozen in hospital."

No officials have confirmed whether anyone is likely to face trouble once the source of the bacteria is confirmed, though Hastings District Council published a full-page apology in Hawke's Bay Today on Monday.

Mr Key said it was too early to point fingers.

"What we have to do is find out what took place, what contaminated the water, and what their responses were."

Hastings District Council said it has been unable to find any human or technical failure that has resulted in the outbreak.

"As we stand here today we don't know what caused this," a spokesman told reporters on Tuesday.

It's also not yet clear whether the outbreak is connected with the discovery of E. coli. in another bore in October, prompting tests to determine whether the whole aquifer has been contaminated.

Hastings District Council is now working with Civil Defence to doorknock homes in the affected areas to offer assistance with household resources like bottled water, nappies and toilet paper.

The DHB is expected to begin telephone surveys of affected areas on Tuesday night to get a better idea of the scale, and determine whether the bacteria has spread after reports of illness in other parts of Hastings.

Mr Jones said it needed to be determined whether affected people in other areas had been drinking water from Havelock North or been in contact with other ill people.

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