Immunisation is the best measles protection – updated 9 Jan

Media release

06 January 2014

Update – January 9

Three further measles cases have been identified, taking the total to 14. They are all people who were already in isolation, and who had been in contact with earlier measles cases. Two of the latest cases are in Wellington, and one in Turangi/Taupo.

The Ministry of Health says a recent measles outbreak is a strong reminder for people to get immunised.

As of January 2, there have been 11 confirmed cases linked to the 2013 World Supremacy Battleground hip-hop competition in Sydney in December, with one case in Auckland and 10 cases from two extended families in Turangi/Taupo.

The Acting Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Harriette Carr, says while no new cases have been reported in recent days, it is still possible more cases could occur.

‘Measles is highly infectious. It’s a serious disease and is easily spread to someone who is not immunised, or who has not been exposed to measles previously. People are infectious five days before symptoms develop to five days after the onset of a rash. Immunisation is the single most effective measure someone can take to protect themselves and their family.’

A publicly funded vaccine for measles is available via GPs. People should also make sure their routine immunisations are up to date before travelling overseas.

Dr Carr says public health units have been busy identifying contacts of people who have measles.

She says public health unit staff have standard procedures in these situations which involved following up with those who had contact with the infected person, and alerting health professionals and emergency departments to especially be on watch for possible measles symptoms.

‘It’s very important if people have symptoms of measles that they seek medical advice. Symptoms can include fever, runny nose, and sore watery red eyes that last for several days before a red blotchy rash appears. Because measles can be easily spread however, it’s also important that people contact the Healthline 0800 611 116 number or ring their doctor first so that their symptoms can be initially assessed without risk of infecting others in a GP waiting room or hospital emergency department.’

Measles symptoms

The illness usually starts 10–12 days after a person has been exposed. If you have measles, you may get:

  • a fever
  • a runny nose
  • sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes
  • sometimes small white spots on the back inner cheek of your mouth.

A rash usually starts on the third-to-seventh day of the illness. This tends to start on the face, behind the ears, before moving over the head and down the body. The rash lasts for up to a week

Measles can be a serious illness, particularly in those with lower immunity. It can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, ear infections, or inflammation of the brain.

What to do if you suspect you have measles

If you have any of these symptoms, even if mild, contact your family doctor or call Healthline on 0800 611 116, for advice as soon as possible.

It’s important to call before visiting the doctor because measles is easily passed on from one person to another. Phoning ahead helps ensure steps are taken to avoid spreading measles in the waiting room.

People should also stay away from work, school or public places, to help avoid putting other people at risk. This also applies to their family members if they are not fully immunised.

You can read more about measles, including immunisation, on the Your health measles page and the Frequently asked questions about measles page.

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