Communicable Disease and Outbreaks

A communicable disease is a disease that can be spread from one person to another. Health Protection Officers (HPOs), Medical Officers of Health and Public Health Nurses have an important role to play in controlling the spread of communicable and notifiable diseases. 

Disease Notifications

Some diseases are ‘notifiable’, this means that they have to be reported (under section 74 of the Health Act 1956) to the Medical Officer of Health. To view the Schedule of Notifiable Diseases click here. Notifications are received from health practitioners, laboratories and the public. 

The role of the Health Protection Team is to identify where these diseases came from, stop their spread within our community, and prevent them from happening again. In response to a notification we may contact you by phone, email or post to determine what might have caused the illness and if others may be affected. We may also:

  • offer advice to prevent the disease spreading
  • arrange isolation from work, early childhood education, school etc.
  • organise clearance sampling for cases (people with the disease) and/or their close contacts.

For further information on the notifiable disease surveillance process and the data that is collected click here.

To make a notification:

  1. Complete the Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand, Te Matau a Māui Hawke's Bay Notification Form  
  2. Check if the disease requires urgent or non-urgent notification (see the tables below)
  3. Follow the directions above appropriate table for how to notify – who to call depends on the urgency of the disease.
  4. Make sure you have relevant case details available when calling, including:
    • Symptoms and signs of the illness
    • Results of diagnostic tests (if relevant)
    • Occupation, and place of work, school, or preschool
    • Date of illness onset
    • Contacts of an infectious case – especially vulnerable people (if known)
    • Vaccination status of the index case (if relevant)
    • Suspected source of infection (e.g. functions attended, contact with another case) (if known).
    • Recent countries visited and date of arrival in New Zealand (if relevant)
    • Whether the patient has been informed that they have, or may have, a notifiable disease 

Diseases requiring URGENT notification

Process for urgent notifications:

Acute gastroenteritis
NB: Not all cases of acute gastroenteritis are notifiable or urgent. Urgent notification is required if: You suspect an outbreak, a case is at high risk of infecting others e.g. a food handler who will not stand down from work duties or a person has suspected or confirmed chemical or toxic food poisoning.
Avian influenza (highly pathogenic)
Cronobacter species
Haemophilus influenzae B invasive disease
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B (acute illness only)
Meningoencephalitis - primary amoebic
MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Neisseria meningitidis invasive disease (meningococcal disease)
Poisoning arising from chemical contamination of the environment, including from algal blooms
Rabies and other lyssaviruses
SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)
Toxic shellfish poisoning
Typhoid and paratyphoid
Vero-toxin or Shiga-like toxin producing Escherichia coli
Viral haemorrhagic fevers e.g. Ebola
Outbreak of any disease 

Diseases requiring non-urgent notification

Process for non-urgent notifications:

Arboviral diseases (e.g. Dengue, Zika)NB: Notify arbovirus infections urgently if there is suspicion that it has been locally acquired.
Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (and other spongiform encephalopathies)
Hepatitis C (acute illness only)
Hepatitis (viral) - not otherwise specified (acute illness only)
Hazardous substance injuries
Hazardous substances are defined under the HSNO Act as anything that has one or more of the following properties: explosiveness, flammability, a capacity to oxidise, corrosiveness, toxicity (including chronic toxicity), ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation; OR on contact with air or water generates a substance with any 1 or more of the properties above. This includes injuries from chemical burns, cleaning products or fireworks. Both intentional and unintentional injuries should be reported.
Hydatid disease
Invasive pneumococcal disease
Lead absorption >/= 0.24 micromol/L
Non-seasonal influenza
Q fever
Rheumatic fever
Rickettsial diseases
Tuberculosis (all forms)
Yellow fever

Other notifications

Process for Section C notifications:

  • Use the notification form on the ESR website for the following diseases.
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • Gonorrhoea
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
  • Syphilis
  • Congenital syphilis


Disease Outbreaks 

Disease outbreaks are localised increases in the occurrence of disease clearly in excess of normally expected levels. Disease outbreaks are often related to contaminated food or water, or to illness spread from person to person. Every year, hundreds of people in New Zealand become unwell due to disease outbreaks, most of which are preventable.

Outbreaks of illness can be common in facilities where people are in close proximity to one another and/or have poor hygiene habits – such as aged residential care facilities, hostels, early childhood centres and schools.

The Health Protection Team works closely with our Medical Officers of Health and Hospital-based Infection Prevention and Control nurses to provide advice and support to facilities experiencing disease outbreaks. We also investigate and respond to large local or national outbreaks or public health emergencies, for example COVID-19. Contact us on 0800 266 020 if you need support and assistance with managing an outbreak.

Preventing the spread of Communicable Diseases

As well as maintaining good general health, there are some basic actions that everyone can take to stop the spread of infectious diseases:


To find out more about infectious diseases and prevention and control of them click here.