Spread of measles a risk for unimmunised children
1530, Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Spread of measles in Auckland region is a risk for unimmunised children
As the number of measles contacts rise Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS), Clinical Director, Dr Julia Peters is advising parents to get their children immunised now.
“Measles is a highly infectious and potentially serious disease”, said Dr Peters Even minimal contact with a measles case can be a risk for anyone who is not immune and we are particularly concerned about any child under five who has not been immunised.”
For example two recent measles cases have generated up to 175 contacts (both adults and children) in waiting rooms and health centres. They have required follow up by ARPHS to check on their immune status. Some contacts have been advised to stay away from preschool, school or work. For every measles case up to 13 other people could become infected with measles.
Immunisation is the only effective way to protect against measles. We advise parents to immunise children on time but remember it’s never too late to catch up with immunisations. Any parents unsure about their children’s record can check with their GP or practice nurse who will arrange for any catch-ups or necessary immunisations.
Age appropriate immunisation rates for measles are low in the Auckland region with Maori and Pacific children particularly at risk.
Measles spreads easily through the air, especially from coughing and sneezing. Pneumonia and ear infections are common symptoms of measles and may lead to other serious complications which can be fatal.
The first symptoms to look out for are fever, runny nose, cough and sore, red eyes. After a few days a red rash appears on the face and moves to the rest of the body. Measles may be difficult to diagnose early in the illness because there are many other viruses, including influenza, that cause similar illnesses.
If measles is suspected then call your GP or practice nurse for advice before visiting as this will help to prevent the spread of the disease to others in the waiting room. Always seek medical help if you are concerned about an illness or if conditions worsen.
The Auckland Regional Public Health
Service intends to provide advice to Primary Health
Organisations within the next 24
Parents can also check their children’s Plunket book or call the National Immunisation Register for immunisation history of children under 5 years of age (born after 23 May 2005).
Waitemata DHB NIR: ph 838 1852
Auckland DHB NIR: ph 638 0393 or 638 0394
Counties Manukau DHB NIR: ph 0800 454 375
What is measles?
* Measles is a highly infectious viral illness that may have serious complications.
* The first symptoms are fever, cough, runny nose and sore red eyes. A red blotchy rash appears on the 2nd to 4th day of illness, starting on the face and spreading down the body.
* In the past, measles infection was very common in childhood.
* Due to immunisation, measles infection has been rare in recent years in the Auckland region.
How is measles
* Measles is highly infectious and is spread from person to person through the air by sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles for as little as an hour can result in infection.
* A person with measles is infectious from a day before the symptoms begin until 4 days after the rash appears. The time from exposure to becoming sick is usually about 10 days.
Who is at risk?
* Anyone who comes in contact with measles during the infectious phase and has not been infected with measles in the past, or has not received two doses of vaccine, is at risk of measles infection.
* Anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, people who are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer or people who take high-dose steroid medications) is at risk of measles infection.
* If it is less than three days since you came into contact with measles, immunisation can prevent infection.
What do I
do if I or my child develops symptoms of measles?
* Remain at home to reduce the possibility of spreading it to other people.
* See your family doctor as soon as possible so that the diagnosis can be confirmed. However, phone ahead to alert your family doctor to allow them to make arrangements to assess you/your child safely and without infecting other people.
* There is no specific treatment for measles. Supportive treatment includes rest, plenty of fluids, and paracetamol for fever.
* Seek medical help if you think your/your child’s condition is getting worse.
How is it prevented?
* While a person is infectious with measles (i.e. up to 5 days before and 4 days after the onset of the rash) it is important that they remain at home to reduce the possibility of spread to other people.
* The best protection against measles is through immunisation with a vaccine called MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. This vaccine provides protection against infection with measles, as well as against mumps and rubella.
* MMR vaccine should be given to children at age 15 months, and a second dose at age four years. These two doses of MMR provide protection against measles to over 95% of those immunised.
* MMR vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that has been used worldwide for many years. It is safe to have the vaccine even in those who have had previous measles or vaccination.
* While many older adults are immune to measles because they were infected as children, young adults may have either not had measles, or received measles immunisation.
* Unimmunised children who have come into contact with measles and who do not receive MMR should not attend school until 14 days after the rash appeared in the person with measles. It is recommended that susceptible adults also do not attend work during this period. This is because non-immune people can unknowingly spread the infection to others.
How can I protect
myself and my family?
* Get immunised against measles. It is never too late. Vaccination is free.
* Check that your child is up-to-date with immunisations. If you are not sure about your or your child’s immunity, ask your family doctor.
* Parents can also contact the National Immunisation Register (NIR) for the immunisation history of children under 5 years of age (born after 23 May 2005).Waitemata DHB NIR: ph 838 1852, Auckland DHB NIR: ph 638 0393 or 638 0394, Counties Manukau DHB NIR: ph 0800 454 375