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Measles cases identified connected to Sydney dance festival

Media statement
Ministry of Health, January 1, 2014

Measles cases identified

Further New Zealand measles cases linked to a dance festival in Sydney have been reported.

There is now one confirmed case of measles in Auckland and nine confirmed cases and one case under investigation in Turangi and Taupo.

The Acting Deputy Director Public Health at the Ministry of Health, Dr Harriette Carr, says public health authorities are working to identify people who may have been in contact with those affected.

"Measles can be a serious disease and is easily spread to someone who is not immunised, or who has not been exposed to measles previously."

Dr Carr says the Auckland measles case, and 3 of the 9 confirmed cases in Turangi/Taupo had attended the 2013 World Supremacy Battleground hip-hop competition in Sydney in December.

The remaining cases were family or known to those who had been at the festival. No-one has been hospitalised but all those currently infective are being kept isolated at home.

Festival attendees are also known to have come from Huntly and Hamilton, and local public health unit staff there are following up.

Dr Carr 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 tif 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 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."

Dr Carr says the cases are a reminder that the most effective protection against measles is immunisation. A publicly-funded vaccination is available via GPs. People should also make sure their routine vaccinations are up to date before travelling overseas.

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 at the Ministry of Health website, including about immunisation:

http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles

New South Wales Health has also provided information about measles cases there:

See www.health.gov.au/news

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