An infant in the Canterbury region has been confirmed as having measles. It is now more important than ever that everyone ensures they are fully vaccinated against mea-sles.
The infant and their family returned to Christchurch from Auckland where there is a major measles outbreak, with more than 250 confirmed cases to date. It is thought that this is where they contracted the highly infectious disease.
The infant had not yet received their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is routinely given at 15 months, with a second one at four years of age.
Anyone who was in Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department on Friday 19 July between 10pm and 3.45am the next day or on Sunday 21 July between 11.40pm and 1.40am the next morning should remain isolated until Monday 5 Au-gust, unless they are sure that they have had two MMR vaccinations or are over 50 years of age.
Canterbury DHB’s Community and Public Health team has been working to identify all family members and close contacts, determining their immunisation status and offering vaccination if appropriate.
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, advises that people are in-fectious from five days before the onset of the rash until five days after the rash ap-pears, so it is possible to transmit the infection before you feel unwell. People who have been exposed to a case and who are not immune should remain isolated from seven to 14 days after their exposure.
“This means staying home from school or work and having no contact with unimmun-ised people. If you are not sure whether you are immune telephone your GP – they can advise you,” says Dr Humphrey.
People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine, have already had measles previously, or were born before 1969 – people born before this time will have been exposed to measles and most will therefore have had it. Most peo-ple in their 30s and 40s only had one measles vaccination and are therefore less likely to be immune until they receive another MMR vaccination, which is free.
Unimmunised people who come within two metres of an infectious person, however briefly, have a 90% chance of contracting measles.
Measles is a serious, highly infectious, potentially life-threatening disease. One in ten people who get measles will need treatment in hospital. Up to 30 percent will develop complications – usually children under 5 and adults over the age of 20. Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and low birth-weight in babies.
Unimmunised people exposed to measles first develop a respiratory type illness with a cough, or runny nose or spots inside their mouth, and a temperature over 38.5 C and a rash which typically appears on day 4 – 5 of the illness usually on the face, then moves down to the chest and arms.
“Because measles is so infectious, it’s important people with symptoms do not visit their general practice team, after-hours clinics or the hospital unless it’s a medical emergen-cy. To limit further exposure to other people, they should instead phone their family doctor/general practice team for advice,” says Dr Humphrey.
Anyone with measles symptoms or who believes they may have been exposed, can contact their usual general practice 24/7 for additional advice. If people call their GP Team after hours they can be put through to a nurse who can provide free health ad-vice and advise what to do and where to go if you need to be seen urgently.
More information about measles is available at https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles.