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Immunisation Week prompts timely measles reminder

Immunisation Week prompts timely measles reminder

With measles continuing to spread through Auckland, Immunisation Week is a timely reminder to parents to check their children’s immunisation status.

The best protection from measles is receiving two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. While one of this week’s themes is ensuring children get immunised ‘on time, every time,’ Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) says it is never too late to catch up on any immunisations that may have been missed.

105 people in Auckland have caught measles so far this year, with 21 requiring hospital treatment. Most cases have been in the 10-19 age group – an age group where people are less likely to be fully immunised (or immune from having had measles before widespread immunisation).

Medical Officer of Health Dr Richard Hoskins says the most frustrating aspect of this outbreak was that it could have been prevented if more people were immunised.

“Measles is highly infectious. When it finds its way into areas with low immunisation rates, it spreads rapidly – as seen on the North Shore, where 52 cases are linked to Westlake Boys High School.

“While the Westlake outbreak is now over, we are still seeing 1-2 ‘sporadic’ cases (cases with no known link to other cases) a week. Several of these people have gone on to infect others, particularly household members and waiting room contacts.”

Measles can be a very serious illness, says Dr Hoskins, with one in three experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea. While one in 10, on average, requires hospitalisation, admission rates in this outbreak have been higher.
Current MMR recommendations are:

· All children from age 15 months who have not had one dose of MMR should receive this as soon as possible.

· All children should receive their second dose at four years of age, or at least 28 days after the first dose.

· All adults born after January 1969 who are not recorded as immunised, or who have only had one measles vaccination, should receive one dose of MMR as soon as possible, with a second dose at least 28 days later for those who had no previous MMR.

· If in doubt, vaccinate. If medical records cannot be located, and there is any uncertainty as to whether someone has received two doses, an MMR can be given with no added risk.

· Immunisation is free.

Dr Hoskins urges parents to check with their GP that they, and their children, are fully up to date with their vaccinations. “It is never too late to catch up – and there is no better time than right now.”

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