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Measles outbreak serious but majority need not worry

Measles outbreak serious but majority of Aucklanders need not worry.

Auckland is experiencing a significant and ongoing outbreak of measles, with a total of 778 cases as of today, up from 759 yesterday. There have been 937 cases nationally this year.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) Medical Officer of Health Dr William Rainger says the service is not requesting that events be cancelled or that people stay away from gatherings, unless they have been asked to be in quarantine or are unwell with possible measles symptoms.

"A medical officer of health does have powers to direct organisers of public events to cancel these, if there is a risk to public health. However, the current level of risk of measles in Auckland does not warrant using these powers.

"As well as having powers of direction, ARPHS provides advice to the public, institutions and event organisers. Our advice is that the measles outbreak is not a generally a reason for public gatherings to be called off.

"However if organisers know people attending are likely to have been exposed to measles, for instance, because they have been at a school with measles, then we ask they seek advice from ARPHS or other medical professionals about the level of risk in their specific situation.

"On the basis of this discussion, an event organiser might decide to cancel their event.

"Most events and gatherings should be able to go ahead as planned in Auckland. This may change in the future if the Ministry of Health and ARPHS decide an event has a significant risk of spreading measles to other parts of the country," Dr Rainger says.

ARPHS is attempting to strike a balance between the risk of further spread of the disease and protecting vulnerable people against disruptions to people’s lives, he says.

Over 50 schools in the region have had measles this year and ARPHS is continuing to work with the Ministry of Education to help schools manage cases.

"The majority of children under 15 years are vaccinated with at least one MMR vaccine. People who were born before 1 January 1969, including overseas, are considered immune in this outbreak.

"In Auckland currently there is still only a small chance that people will be exposed to the disease. That means most people can go about their lives as usual.

"We are concerned about those in the region who are not vaccinated. And of this group it is the children and those who have weakened immune systems who are most at risk of complications from measles.

"Please don’t delay getting your children vaccinated at 12 months and at four years, and make sure older children are vaccinated now if they have missed out," Dr Rainger says.

You can get vaccinated for free at any GP. There are also drop-in clinics at Clendon Shopping Centre in Manurewa during the week (Monday-Friday 9.30am to 3pm) and at the Manukau SuperClinic in Manukau on Saturdays (8.30am-3pm).

Any adult under 50 years of age also needs to check they are immune. Find your records, your Well Child or Plunket book or check with your doctor. If you are not sure, or can’t find your records, get vaccinated. Another dose of the MMR vaccine will not hurt you and it will protect you and your community.

"Do watch out for the symptoms of measles - a fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes, with a rash following a few days later. Please phone ahead to your GP before going to the clinic, if you think you may have measles," Dr Rainger says

For more information or advice on measles, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Auckland Regional Public Health Service or Ministry of Health websites.


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