The Ministry of Health is urging New Zealanders to stay alert to symptoms of measles and ensure that children aged between 15 months and 4 years receive their normal MMR vaccinations.
There have now been 28 cases of measles confirmed in Canterbury, two cases in Dunedin and two isolated cases in Auckland. There has also been a recent outbreak in the Waikato this year and Dr Caroline McElnay, Director of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, warns there are also a number of international outbreaks. More cases of measles are therefore likely.
“Our first priority is to help Canterbury respond to their local outbreak, which will help protect all New Zealanders. But it's also really important we maintain our existing effective nationwide immunisation programme.”
“It's worth remembering that just one dose of MMR gives you a 95% chance of being protected. That’s why Canterbury DHB’s MMR vaccination campaign is prioritising people aged 12 months to 28 years who have never received a measles or MMR vaccine.
“While additional vaccine stock is being diverted to Canterbury, there are no issues with vaccine supply to the rest of the country.
"We’re encouraging practices elsewhere in New Zealand to maintain delivery of the MMR vaccination at ages 15 months and 4 years and ensure that children are up to date with all their vaccinations,” says Dr McElnay.
Some large events are coming up, including the high school students gathering together for the School Strike 4 Climate tomorrow and this weekend’s clash between the Highlanders and Crusaders.
"If you’re feeling sick and thinking of attending these, or other events, we advise you to stay home. If you or a family member aren’t fully immunised and may have been in contact with someone with measles you should also stay away from work, school or public places, to help prevent putting other people at risk," says Dr McElnay.
"By isolating yourself you will help protect vulnerable people including babies, pregnant women, cancer patients and others who are unable to be immunised and for whom the impact of the disease can be devastating.”
Vaccination is free. If you’re unsure whether you’ve been vaccinated you can check you’re vaccination status by looking in your Well Child Tamariki Ora or Plunket book, or by contacting your general practice.
Measles is a highly infectious airborne virus which affects both children and adults. If you think you have the measles, it’s important to call before visiting your doctor to avoid you spreading the virus in the waiting room.
The first symptoms of measles include a fever, cough, runny nose and Sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes. This is followed by a blotchy rash. If you catch measles you're infectious 5 days before and until 5 days after the rash appears.