Announcement on PHA activities in light of COVID-19

18 Mar 2020 3:13 PM | Anonymous

We wish you all the best in this difficult time of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will try to continue to work and function from home as normally as we can.

Our Zoom facility is on hand for all branches, caucuses and SIGs to deploy for remote face to face meetings online. Please contact Fiona (fiona@pha.org.nz) or Alyssa (pha@pha.org.nz) for support to plan your zoom meetings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - what is it?

Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of viruses which includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

In January 2020, officials identified a new coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, formerly known as 2019-nCoV). The disease caused by this new virus has been named COVID-19 (CO for the coronavirus family, VI for virus, D for disease and 19 for the year the virus emerged).

New Zealand has 589 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19. and one death. The Ministry of Health (MoH) says 'With continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low'.

See MoH's latest media release for a summary of the current status.

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 4 – Eliminate

'These alert levels specify the public health and social measures to be taken. Nationwide, New Zealand is currently at Level 4 – Eliminate. This means that it is likely that the disease is not contained. See more information about Alert levels.

Find out how to look after your mental health and wellbeing when you have to stay at home.

Health and care workers - expressions of interest for COVID-19 response

We are seeking expressions of interest from health and care professionals who are able and willing to work for a limited amount of time as part of the national strategic approach to managing COVID-19. Find out more'

For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.

See the MoH website for detailed information on the virus. The MoH has developed a useful 'what you need to know' sheet. MoH also has a Facebook page to keep you up to date on the situation. 

How to minimise the risk of getting sick
Stay at home unless you are an essential worker. Stay up to date with the Government's announcements and advice and follow the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 webpage to keep up with the latest developments.

Strictly observe good hand and respiratory hygiene. This means:

  • covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or coughing/sneezing into your elbow
  • disposing of used tissues appropriately in a bin
  • washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and drying them thoroughly, or using hand sanitiser:
    • before eating or handling food
    • after using the toilet
    • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
    • after touching public surfaces
  • keeping 2 metres away from people who are unwell
  • limiting alcohol and drug use (as this may affect your ability to adequately follow the advice above).

The measures above are especially important for people who have existing health conditions, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems.

Book your flu vaccination asap
Another very important thing you can do is to get vaccinated against influenza as soon as you can.

More than 800,000 influenza vaccines have been distributed to vaccination providers.

This ensures vaccines are available to vaccinate priority groups, such as those over 65 years old, pregnant women, children with a history of respiratory illness and frontline workers.

It's worth noting that influenza immunisation doesn’t normally start until April, and the flu season doesn’t normally start until late May.

Be patient while our health system works through any backlogs. There will be more stock available in the first half of April. 

Flutracking 

Flutracking is an online survey which asks if you have had a fever or cough in the last week and which can help us track COVID-19. 

Registering online will help our surveillance efforts by providing early detection of community spread of the flu and also of COVID-19 symptoms.

People are encouraged to register online at the Flutracking website.

This is a practical thing everyone can do to help monitor flu and COVID-19 symptoms throughout NZ.

Not only is getting vaccinated against the flu the best way to avoid the flu but it will also leave the health system free to cope with those who do contract COVID-19 and not clog up the system with flu victims.

Useful Links
World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 website
WHO COVID-19 Q&A
MoH website
MoH social media:
Facebook page: @minhealthnz
Twitter channel @minhealthnz 
NZ Government COVID-19 website
Johns Hopkins University's CSSE has a one-page dashboard that allows visitors to track every single confirmed case in the world, as well as deaths and recovery figures, in near real-time.

University of Otago Public Health Expert blog:
Avoidable hospitalisations: Helping our health system get through COVID-19
Getting Through Together: Ethical Values for a Pandemic
NZ Should Prepare for a Potentially Severe Global Coronavirus Pandemic
What does the novel coronavirus epidemic mean for New Zealand?

Other stories on COVID-19
How to talk to a loved one who's breaking isolation rules
New Zealanders in coronavirus self-isolation urged to register
Closing NZ's border against extreme pandemics stacks up, study finds

Please take care of yourselves and those around you.

Arohanui from your national office team (now all based at our homes).

The PHA – a strong and informed collective voice for a healthy and well New Zealand.

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Letter to the Listener 28 July 2017 in response to Fever Pitch (Listener 21 July 2017)

Catherine Woulfe’s thorough investigation of rheumatic fever brings to the surface a range of important questions not only about this cruel disease, but also wider issues about health policy. The Government’s bold initiative to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever as one of its 'Better Public Service' targets in 2012 certainly raised awareness of rheumatic fever for the general public as well as communities and families directly affected. But even when medical science and the public have a clearer understanding of the immediate causes of rheumatic fever, interventions like the $65m ‘sore throats matter’ still won’t stop the epidemic. 

Ramona Tiatia’s blunt description of the experience of affected families not only painted a picture of the impact on affected families and communities, it also highlighted the invidious choices our health funders face.  How much should we prioritise health spending between response to the urgent need of young people whose lives and potential can be devastated by the disease versus the expense of addressing the economic and social factors that underlie the reasons we have this epidemic at all?   

As several of the clinicians interviewed pointed out, it’s only when the poverty and over-crowded housing issues are addressed that we will make a real difference.

Rheumatic fever illustrates the contradictions in our health system identified in the recent American Commonwealth Fund report. Of the 11 countries the Fund monitors, the work our health professionals do is ranked among the highest. But our overall performance as a health system falls to the middle ranking because of our poor performance on access and equity. The Fund also notes that our per capita expenditure is among the cheapest. 

Failure to invest in real prevention - that is, poverty, housing, good nutrition etc. - will continue to drive conditions like rheumatic fever, whether the immediate cause is strep throat or skin sores, until we invest upstream.

Why not spend more on these conditions - the economic and social determinants of health? 

We all pay in the long run - the young people whose misery we tolerate and whose potential remains unfulfilled, the families whose sacrifices are unrewarded, and the taxpayer who picks up the tab.

Ngā mihi,
Warren Lindberg

CE Public Health Association of New Zealand

                                            

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