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Measles outbreak in the Waikato

Waikato DHB Medical Officer of Health, Dr Richard Hoskins is urging people to catch up on measles immunisations and to take appropriate action if they think they might have measles. The Medical Officer of Health has been notified of six cases of measles in the last week, some of them dating back to late December.

“Measles is easily passed from one person to another. The best form of protection is immunisation,” said Dr Hoskins.

“It is important to be aware of the symptoms of measles and what to do if you think you or a family member has measles. The first symptoms of measles are a fever, and a runny nose or cough or red eyes. After a few days a red blotchy rash develops and lasts up to one week. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.”

Public Health are working to inform individuals who may have been exposed to measles in various settings. Contacts who are not immune to measles are advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after their contact, or until their immunity is proven.

“Contacts” are people who shared the same indoor air as someone while they were infectious with measles (for example, by being in the same room as someone with measles). People most at risk of contracting the disease are those born after 1 January 1969 who have not had two doses of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine.

About 2 in 10 people with measles will require hospital support. Measles can also lead to complications including ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhoea, seizures and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Measles can be very serious. If you or your child becomes unwell please phone your GP or call Health line on 0800 611 116 for advice or seek medical attention depending on severity of illness. It is important to call first because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others around them for example in waiting rooms of GP surgeries or ED. Measles is spread by tiny droplets in the air and is one of the few diseases that can spread so easily to those nearby.

Immunisation is the best protection against this potentially serious disease. You need two doses of Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine to be fully immune. If you were born after 1 January 1969 check your vaccination status – if you are not sure, ask your doctor. The vaccines are free for children and for adults who have not received two doses.

Further information:

What is measles?

• Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can be serious.

• It is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.

What should you do?

• Ensure you are up to date with your immunisations.

• If you are not immune it is important to be aware of the symptoms of measles. The early symptoms of measles are fever, and runny nose or sore eyes or cough.

• After 2-4 days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.

If you develop symptoms of measles:

• Stay at home and away from public places (such as sports events, gatherings, parties, school, work, child care, shopping centres, public transport and so on).

• See your doctor as soon as possible so a diagnosis can be confirmed. However, phone the surgery ahead to alert them of your symptoms and to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people.

• If you are unable to visit your GP phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.

People who are regarded as not immune to measles are:

• People younger than 50 years old (born after 01 January 1969) who have not had two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or have not had a laboratory result showing immunity

• Children over four years old who have not received their second dose of MMR vaccine

• Infants under the age of 15 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine. They are susceptible and rely on everyone else to be immune so that measles does not spread to them

Other sites for more information:

Ministry of Health

Health Navigator

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