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Schoolchildren could be sent home as measles spreads

1 August 2011

Schoolchildren could be sent home as measles spreads

Parents are reminded to make sure their children are appropriately immunised or risk having them sent home from school in a measles outbreak.

The warning comes as new measles cases continue to be reported in Auckland and Waikato. Director of Public Health Mark Jacobs says there is a risk that more new measles cases may be confirmed in other regions as children return to school today after holiday travel and activities.

Measles is highly infectious; it is much easier to catch than influenza. If you have no immunity, there is an extremely high chance you will catch this disease if you come into contact with someone who has it.

“The vast majority of children in Auckland who have caught measles, including the ones who have been hospitalised because they have become so sick, are not immunised. This is testament to the vaccine's effectiveness.”

We require unimmunised children to stay home if there is a measles case at their school to protect them from getting sick and to stop the outbreak spreading, Dr Jacobs says.

“Parents who keep their unimmunised children home are also helping to protect other children who cannot be immunised because they are having treatment for cancer or have conditions that suppress their immunity, making them extremely vulnerable to life-threatening infections.”

If parents can’t remember whether their child is fully immunised, they should check with their family doctor.

If their child hasn’t received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is free, they should consider getting them immunised. About 90 to 95 percent of people are protected from measles once they are fully immunised.

If parents have chosen not to immunise their child or their child is too young to be immunised and they are concerned they may have been exposed to measles, they should seek medical advice by phoning their doctor or Healthline 0800 611 116.

Measles can make children very sick for up to two weeks with symptoms such as a high fever, hacking cough, red eyes, runny nose and a rash. It often starts as an influenza-like illness. The measles rash does not appear for several days. Adults can also get measles if they are not immunised. A range of more serious complications like pneumonia can also occur, both in children and adults.

More information about free MMR immunisation and measles are available on www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation, www.immune.org.nz and the free immunisation helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

ENDS

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