MEDIA RELEASES

Northlanders urged to get vaccinated against measles

Dr Clair Mills, Medical Officer of Health at Northland DHB, advises Northlanders to ensure their families are protected from measles. 238 cases have been reported this year so far from the Auckland region, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and Wellington, with over 100 cases from the recent outbreak in a high school in Hamilton.

“A person with confirmed measles in Hawkes Bay was recently visited by people living in Northland, and it is probably only a matter of time before measles spreads north, especially with school holidays approaching” said Dr Mills.

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.

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

“While one in 10 on average requires hospitalisation, admission rates in the Hamilton outbreak have been higher.”

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

“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.”

“Please double-check that your child is not at risk. There is a window of opportunity now while no cases have yet been reported in 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.”

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.”

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.


Further information


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 01 January 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 are up to date with your immunisations.
  • 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 3-5 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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