Paratyphoid fever numbers rise in Hawke's Bay

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Paratyphoid fever cases in Hawke's Bay have risen from four to six confirmed people who have been hospitalised. Some of those cases were caused by eating mussels from the Napier area. Local hapū leaders of Ngāti Kahungunu have placed a rāhui (restriction) over the area as protection.

"Paratyphoid is pretty rare in New Zealand. It's nearly always from people who have come back from overseas. Usually in countries that don't have very good sanitation systems and we think that it gets into the shellfish because the human faeces, the poo from people, gets into the water," says Dr Nick Jones of the Hawke's Bay DHB.

Jones says the disease is so rare that there is only about an average of eight cases per year in New Zealand. "It can cause quite severe complications, the bowel can get complications and it can be fatal."

The contaminated mussels were collected from the marina, a traditional food site for Māori and were used for a tangi at Tangoio Marae.

"We have all these boats coming in that dispose of all their waste in the marina. That's the problem right there. Another is that some business owners don't care about what they discharge into the water. That all gets left behind for us," says Tangoio kaumātua Matiu Eru.

The virus could stay in the shellfish for up to a month, so the rāhui will stop collection of shellfish until it's safe.

The DHB continues to investigate other possible cases and says people with the disease will have a fever, chills, headache, possibly a rash, and may also experience severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

Paratyphoid generally occurs within 10 days of consuming contaminated food or water but symptoms may take as long as four weeks to develop.  

Anyone feeling sick and who has eaten shellfish from the Napier Marina area should contact their family doctor or they can call Health Line 24/7 0800 611 116.