Rare disease in Ashburton

An Ashburton baby has been diagnosed with paratyphoid, a highly contagious and rare disease.

The scare has prompted health authorities to alert parents of children going to the same preschool as the affected child.

A Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) spokesperson said the child had not attended the preschool while being unwell, and "as far as we are aware there has been no spread".

"A child under 12 months has been diagnosed with paratyphoid this week in Ashburton. The child was unwell with a high fever and tummy pains," the spokesperson said.

"Parents at the childcare centre have been provided with information on the illness, and children who have been unwell are being asked to provide stool samples for testing."

The paratyphoid case comes off the back of a hepatitis A epidemic in Ashburton, however health authorities said the two illnesses were unrelated.

Paratyphoid fever is a bacterial disease similar but milder than typhoid and is highly contagious, passed on through faeces, similar to the spread of hepatitis A.

Its symptoms include a high fever, stomach pains, constipation and a flat rose-coloured spots.

"It can be acquired from food of drink that have been handled and contaminated by a person shedding the bacteria or if contaminated sewerage gets into water," a CDHB health sheet said.

The disease is believed to infect 10-30 people in New Zealand a year, with most cases introduced while overseas, mainly to southern or eastern Asia.

However, the CDHB spokesperson said the infected child had no travel history. An investigation was underway to find the source.

An infected person is usually treated by antibiotics and are not allowed to return to preschool, school or work until they have had clearance from a medical officer.


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