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Health Minister angry he first heard of typhoid outbreak on TV news, officials 'taken to task'

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman is angry he first heard of a typhoid outbreak in Auckland on TV news on Friday night, three days after a woman with the infection had died.

Dr Jonathan Coleman says he first found out about the issue on Friday night, three days after an Auckland woman with the infection died. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr Coleman aired his concerns this afternoon as Auckland Regional Public Health Service said the number of confirmed cases of typhoid has risen to 16, with two other probable cases.

Twelve people are in hospital, some patients have been discharged and so far all the cases linked to the outbreak are part of one church community, the service said. 

The service announced yesterday that a woman with typhoid had died on March 28.

She was a member of the Mt Roskill Samoan Assembly of God Church which is at the centre of the outbreak.

ARPHS made its first public release about the outbreak late Friday afternoon, three days after the woman died.

In Parliament's Question Time, Labour's health spokesman David Clark questioned Dr Coleman about the delays in informing the dead woman's family and the wider public about the typhoid outbreak.

Outside the House, Dr Coleman told reporters he's very unhappy about that aspect  and he has "received a number of apologies".

"I certainly don't expect to find out about things on the TV news that's for sure. And I'm very unhappy about that and I've made that very clear," he said.

"I've had a very direct conversation with officials about it.

"They've been taken to task but, look, I think there are some lessons the Auckland public health unit has learnt through this.

"Look, although clinically in terms of the public health aspects they've done a good job, clearly some of the communications could have been better at a variety of levels."

How typhoid is spread

ARPHS, meanwhile, says it has confirmed the location where the church meets and continues to work with the church community. 

"This includes engaging with the cases, their contacts and church leaders of this community, prioritising those people with the greatest clinical risk, and those at greatest risk of exposure to the bacteria," a statement read.

"It is important to understand typhoid is only spread by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with faeces or urine from a person who has the illness, or who may be a carrier of the bacteria," it continued.

"Casual social contact, such as visiting a person in hospital and hugging and kissing them, is not a significant risk to people."

'She got the best treatment possible'

This evening, Auckland DHB Chief Medical Officer Dr Margaret Wilsher said she had reviewed the treatment provided to the woman who died, and that "the cause of the infection, typhoid, only became apparent on blood test as she was dying".

"I particularly want to reassure the fanau that she got the very best treatment possible, and that no one who visited her in hospital was at significant risk of infection," she said.

"She was very unwell when she presented, and it was soon apparent that she had some sort of severe infection on top of pre-existing important medical problems. Despite intensive care she passed away within 24 hours."