Health chief defends typhoid case handling

Auckland health officials have defended their handling of the typhoid outbreak, saying they did what was needed to stop the spread of the disease.

Sixteen people are known to have contracted the bacteria, with one dead. The public wasn't notified of the death until after the funeral had taken place on Monday, and the school where her church group meets - the source of the outbreak - didn't know until Wednesday this week.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) admitted on The AM Show on Thursday that it knew of the outbreak for a week before going public.

ARPHS spokesman Dr William Rainger said their initial focus was on preventing the disease's spread.

"What we do in terms of trying to prevent the spread of the disease is first of all identify cases to get them treatment and prevent the spread of the disease - so isolate them.

"And also identify contacts, so they can have advice, treatment if necessary, and not be put into situations where they might spread it."

He said it was a mistake not to notify everyone in the church congregation, and notifying others - such as Wesley Primary School - was complicated by the woman's death.

The church's pastor apparently asked ARPHS to hold back until after the funeral.

"There is a balance between respecting cultural needs and privacy, and being effective in terms of preventing the spread of the disease," said Dr Rainger.

There was also confusion about where the church held its congregations, leading to the delay in notifying the school.

"That was confusing, and that has led to some missed communication with the school and the parents. We regret that, and are apologising to the principal and to the parents."

He's satisfied however ARPHS did the right things to stop the spread of the disease.

"I think there have been things we could have done better… but I think the core public health activity - to prevent the spread of the illness - we have been doing well."