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Eighteen Cases Of Measles In Hawke’s Bay Since March

Eighteen Cases Of Measles In Hawke’s Bay Since March

Eighteen cases of measles in Hawke’s Bay, since March, has prompted health officials to urge parents to check their children are fully immunised

Hawke’s Bay DHB Medical Officer of Health Lester Calder said of the 18 cases of measles 14 cases were from Flaxmere/Hastings, three from Maraekakaho and one from Napier

Dr Calder said measles doesn’t just affect children. Three of the most recent cases in Hawke’s Bay affected adults, one of whom was hospitalised.

“Measles is highly infectious and makes people very sick. Vaccination is the only protection against this potentially serious disease. The disease spreads easily through the air, especially from coughing and sneezing – it is highly infectious. It commonly causes ear infections and pneumonia, and may lead to other serious complications and can, in some cases, be fatal. Measles is still circulating in our communities so it’s important children are immunised to protect them from needless suffering,” he said.

While Hawke’s Bay had very good rates of immunisation amongst pre school children, older children and adults may not be up-to-date with the measles vaccine.

Dr Calder advised adults who were born after 1969 to check with their GP as they may also not be immune. Anyone over the age of one year, who was born after 1969 and who has not had two doses of measles vaccine in the past is eligible for free measles immunisation.

Those not immune to measles and are exposed to measles may be excluded from work, school and child-care for up to two weeks.

Measles is a virus infection which starts with red eyes, runny nose, cough and fever. After a few days a skin rash develops. People who have not been immunised are more likely to catch the disease and pass it on to others.

Questions and Answers

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.

How is measles spread?

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 but can be up to 21 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 might 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.

Phone ahead to alert your family doctor, this will 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.

Most older adults are immune to measles because they were infected as children. But young adults and children may have not had measles and may not have 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).

ENDS

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