MEDIA RELEASES

Further cases of measles in Northland - Northlanders urged to get vaccinated

Northland DHB has confirmed five further cases of measles in Northland. The unimmunised children affected reside in the Hokianga, and had been in contact with the first case reported on July 29.  

Northland DHB medical officer of health Dr Clair Mills strongly advises Northlanders to ensure their families are protected from measles.

“Measles is highly-infectious and if children are not immunized, there is a very high chance they will get sick if exposed to someone with measles.

“The vast majority of the at-risk children and adults who were in contact with the first case stayed in isolation until the risk of infection was over. However, the non-immunised family members of the case, have measles.

“The latest case had been asked to stay in isolation but has become infected. Unfortunately the child attended an early childhood centre for some days last week. Children do not usually receive MMR (measles vaccine) until 15 months of age so we are particularly concerned for the younger infants who have been in contact with this case, who are also the most vulnerable to complications such as pneumonia if they get measles.

“Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea.”

Dr Mills says, while one in 10, on average, requires hospitalisation, admission rates in the Hamilton outbreak have been higher.

She reiterates that immunisation is the best protection from this potentially serious disease.

“Unfortunately there has been very low measles immunisation coverage in much of Northland until the last few years. This means that many children and young adults are susceptible to measles.

“This is an avoidable disease where there is an effective vaccine. Immunisation protects, not only the individual, but also stops the spread of this disease within our communities and protects our most vulnerable - infants and people who are immune-compromised, such as those on cancer treatment.

“Please double-check that your child is not at risk. There is a window of opportunity now, while cases are limited to one part of Northland, to catch up on any missed vaccinations. Vaccination is a much better option than having a very sick child at home for a couple of weeks.”

Dr Mills recommends that the first MMR be given at 12 months while measles is present in the community. A second MMR can be given a month later, to ensure maximal protection.

Unimmunised people, who have had contact with a person with measles, will normally be advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after their contact.

“Anyone born before 1969 or who has received two doses of MMR can reasonably assume they are already immune.”

Measles is spread by tiny droplets in the air and is very infectious, easily spreading to those nearby. The first symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes) can be mistaken for a cold, with the rash (appearing on the face and neck and spreading over the body) three to five days later.

Dr Mills says anyone displaying symptoms of measles, which include fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes, followed by a rash spreading from the head and neck over the body, should immediately telephone their doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.


What is measles?

  • Measles is a highly-infectious viral disease that can be serious. 
  • It is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.

Who is at risk of measles infection?

People are at risk of getting measles if they are not immune to measles. People who are regarded as not immune to measles are:

  • People younger than 45 years old (born after January 1 1969) who have not had two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • Infants under the age of 15 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine. They are susceptible and rely on everyone else to be immune so that measles does not spread to them.
  • Children over four years old who have not received their second dose of MMR.

What should you do?

  • Ensure you/your child are up-to-date with your immunisations (MMR is usually given at 15 months and four years). However, children over 12 months of age can be immunised, and this is recommended when there is measles in the community. One MMR vaccination already gives over 90 per cent protection against measles; two doses is 95 per cent effective.
  • If you are not immune, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of measles.  The early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough.
  • After three-five days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.

If you develop symptoms of measles: 

  • Stay at home and away from public places (such as sports events, gatherings, parties, school, work, child care, shopping centres, public transport and so on).
  • See your doctor as soon as possible so a diagnosis can be confirmed.  However, phone the surgery ahead to alert them of your symptoms and to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people.
  • If you are unable to visit your GP, phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.


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