257 Hereford conference contacts still sought

Are you one of the 257?

That is how many "close contacts" health authorities are still trying to locate arising from the 20 Covid-19 cases associated with the Boehringer Ingelheim World Hereford Conference in Queenstown earlier this month.

A statement from the Ministry of Health, and Southern and Canterbury District Health Boards yesterday said they had identified 840 close contacts from the conference and had tracked 583.

The 400 or so conference delegates from 20 countries travelled widely in New Zealand.

Before the four-day conference, some went on a five-day North Island tour which took in Auckland, Rotorua, Napier, Masterton and Wellington, with visits to seven farms specialising in Hereford cattle.

The tour finished in Wellington on March 8.

Then, after the conference, on March 14, some delegates left Queenstown on a five-day tour to Te Anau, Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch.

During the tour they visited eight farms in Southland, Otago and Canterbury.

The tour ended on March 18.

Some delegates also attended the Wanaka A & P Show held on March 13 and 14.

The statement from health authorities said the first conference case they were informed about "wasn't exhibiting typical symptoms at the time of the conference".

"He returned to Australia, where he subsequently tested positive.

"When alerted to this person having tested positive, organisers contacted public health officials.

"Based on current advice regarding contacts, an initial message was sent to attendees on March 18 alerting them to possible contact with a confirmed case.

"Since then, public health units, along with Healthline and the ministry's newly established contact tracing unit, have been working to contact trace and follow up on cases and contacts."

The New Zealand Hereford Association Council is no longer answering questions about the matter.

President Colin Corney, of Ohaupo, near Hamilton, told the Otago Daily Times earlier this week he had spoken to three of those with the virus and none were very sick at that stage.

"One in particular had just a little bit of flu-like; got tested; said they were positive.

"They gave him a box of tissues and a mask and told him to go home and isolate for 14-odd days.

"That’s all he was given."

Mr Corney said "to be fair", there is not much else that can be done.

The one person from Uruguay had already returned to his home, but had attended the Wanaka show.

Mr Corney said the conference was held at the time when the number of Covid-19 cases was small and all advice had been to continue.

Ironically, conference sponsors — international pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim — promotes itself online as being set on "improving the health and quality of life of humans and animals".

"The focus in doing so is on diseases for which no satisfactory treatment option exists to date.

"The company therefore concentrates on developing innovative therapies that can extend patients’ lives."

mark.price@odt.co.nz

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