Typhoid victim's family 'angry' about poor communication

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is under fire again for miscommunication, this time from Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Wesley Primary School principal Brenda Martin said in a statement she had just learnt that the woman who died from typhoid was a member of the Samoan Assembly of God, which meets at the school's hall in the weekend.

"This is despite an assurance yesterday from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) that she was from a different group."

The Minister of Health isn't mincing his words

"No I'm very unhappy about that," Jonathan Coleman says.

"I've received a number of apologies but I certainly don't expect to find out about things on the TV news."

The Public Health Service admits it got it wrong, but says there's almost no risk of it spreading to the school.

"I think with the benefit of hindsight it would've been better to have talked to the school earlier. Has that actually put anyone at risk or impeded the control of the outbreak, almost certainly not," says Dr William Rainger.

Typhoid cases increases

The number of typhoid cases in Auckland has risen to 16, with two more patients suspected to have the illness.

A dozen of those affected are still in hospital, though some have been discharged.

The illness has already claimed the life of one woman, and led to criticism of Auckland Regional Public Health Service's (ARPHS) handling of the outbreak.

Despite this, ARPHS has told the school that there is no danger of the church group getting infected.

"I must emphasise the advice from ARPHS that there is almost no risk that this has spread any further and school will be open as usual tomorrow," Ms Martin says.

"The wellbeing of our students is our top priority and we'll keep you informed of any new developments. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the woman."

 A spokesperson for the deceased, Jerome Mika, said the communication with immediate family and those in the church was "poor".

"They're just trying to grieve for their loved one and to find this out after and have this media release with people and the church named was just poor communication," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

He said he was in Maungaturoto on Tuesday when he started fielding calls from concerned family out of the blue which was "really disappointing".

"There's a lot of worried people and even we've got people this morning to check themselves out to see whether they were infected by typhoid."

No one at the woman's funeral knew she had typhoid. Her death certificate did say the cause of death was 'salmonella typhi' - the medical term for typhoid - but Mr Mika says you have to keep in mind that English is the family's second language so they wouldn't have known what it was.

The ARPHS named a church thought to be where the outbreak was centred to be the Mt Roskill Samoan Assembly of God (AoG).

But Mr Mika said that is confusing because there are a number of AoG churches in the area and that announcement cast a shadow over all of them.

"There wasn't enough information, it was very poor from the public health service and a lot of the families are quite angry because there wasn't any honesty applied at the time and to find out through the media... we also had some churches that the media had visited, but there are three or four other Mt Roskill AoGs and unfortunately the family is feeling quote disappointed because the name was put out," he says.

The church was now trying to find out who else may have been affected and to keep themselves safe.

Mr Mika didn't believe they outbreak has been contained.

"We don't know how far or widespread this is so we're quite concerned."

On Tuesday, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said he hadn't been told why the ARPHS waited so long to confirm the death.

 "I think [ARPHS] should be communicating very clearly with people on issues. But there's probably some communications issues they need to take on board from this whole episode.

"Typhoid - obviously that word concerns people so it's important communications in this instance are really clear."

ARPHS clinical director Dr Julia Peters said the decision to delay the announcement was to allow the funeral to take place.

"We extend our sympathy to the woman's family and church community."

Typhoid is spread through food and water contamination.

Symptoms of typhoid include a high fever developing over several days, headaches, general weakness and muscle aches. Stomach pain and constipation are also common but some people get diarrhoea.

Anyone with those symptoms feeling very unwell to see their doctor or an after-hours clinic, or contact Healthline on 0800 611 116.