Update on efforts to contact 55 women at risk of Hepatitis C

Saturday 5 June 2010, 8:32AM
By Ministry of Health

New Zealand and Australian health authorities are working closely to contact 55 New Zealand women who may be at risk of having contracted Hepatitis C after having visited Croydon Day Surgery in Melbourne between 1 January 2006 and 7 December 2009.

New Zealand women who are concerned that they may be at risk are being encouraged to call Healthline 0800 611 116 for advice.

Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Fran McGrath says an update on the number of calls made to Healthline about this issue will be available weekly starting from 9 June.

“This is a sensitive and potentially distressing situation for these women. Our priority is to ensure that they feel safe about calling Healthline so that they can be transferred through to the Victoria Health authority’s confidential HepC line to get advice, a test, support and treatment if they need it. At the same time, we understand that there is a need to keep the public updated on the actions being taken.”

From this weekend, there will be advertising in newspapers in the larger centres and online promoting Healthline.

“We are in regular contact with the Australian authorities and we are checking if there is more we can do to help. But in the meantime, the most important message to New Zealand women who are concerned that they may be among those who are affected is please get in touch with Healthline. It’s confidential and it’s free. They can help answer your questions and put you in touch with the Australian helpline where you can find out whether you need to have a test,” Dr McGrath says.

Women will be asked by Healthline to provide their name but do not have to provide it. Weekday calls can be transferred through to the Australian Hepatitis C helpline for more information. If callers are transferred to Australia they will need to provide their name and address so their treatment details can be checked.

If callers are in the group that may be at risk, they will be referred to specialist staff in District Health Boards in New Zealand for blood testing, follow-up, support and treatment if necessary.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes inflammation of the liver and which can have serious complications.