Taranaki DHB worry about potential outbreak in Stratford after fourth positive wastewater test

Taranaki DHB is worried there are multiple undetected cases of COVID-19 in Stratford after a fourth positive wastewater sample in 10 days.

Authorities believe COVID-19 is spreading through the Taranaki town and they fear there is a symptomatic family among its residents who've been infectious for two weeks.  

"I'm really worried, there is a person or people in Stratford with COVID-19," Taranaki DHB Medical Officer Jonathan Jarman says. "We want to find them as quickly as possible."

On Wednesday there was yet another sample from the Stratford wastewater pond that returned a positive result. 

Jarman is urging people to get tested, so they can limit the spread of the virus and the damage.

"Being infectious means you are potentially infecting other people," Jarman says. "I strongly suspect there will be more than one person." 

And as the consistent duress to get tested, there is also pressure to get vaccinated.

Four thousand unvaccinated DHB staff could be fired if they don't get their first jab before Tuesday, a loss which is expected to hit regional hospitals the hardest.

"I'm disappointed," John Bonning of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine says. "Systems will need to adapt, people need to step up to fill gaps. It'll be felt slightly more acutely in the smaller regional, rural places." 

Currently 95 percent of the 80,000 DHB staff have had their first dose. 

West Coast, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay have the lowest rates at 93 percent, followed by Northland,Taranaki, Capital and Coast and Nelson/Marlborough are at 94 percent.

"I'm flabbergasted, you'd think people working in a health system, of all people, would understand the importance of being vaccinated," University of Auckland professor of medicine Des Gorman tells Newshub.  

Hospitals are a high-risk spot for the virus to spread. Of the 84 COVID cases currently in hospital, only two are fully vaccinated. 

"Where we've had hospitals with large numbers of vaccinated people, they've acted as a conduit in spreading the disease," Gorman says.

DHBs can't say what jobs the unvaccinated staff will be losing, but the nurses' union estimates about 300 of its members haven't been jabbed.

"The Ministry of Health is working closely with DHBs to make sure there isn't a disruption to service," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.  

But with only four days left until it gets jabbed, or get out, the pressure is on.  

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