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Measles in Northland

Northland DHB urges parents to ensure their entire whānau are up to date with their Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccinations, with 34 cases of measles now confirmed in the region.

Health providers throughout the country are working hard to curb the outbreak of measles nationwide, with over 800 cases confirmed in Auckland alone.

“All of the recently confirmed cases in Northland are as a result of someone catching measles either during a visit to Auckland of from a visitor from Auckland and then passing this on to others. Many people living in Northland travel regularly to Auckland this means their chances of being exposed are high, and vaccination is our best protection”, warned Medical Officer of Health Dr Catherine Jackson.

It has been estimated to prevent recurrent outbreaks of measles, 90 percent of the population must be immune. To reach this level of herd immunity, 95 percent of people must have had at least one MMR vaccination.

How immune to measles are people living in Northland?

MMR immunisation is usually given at 15 months and 4 years of age. While most children in Northland are immunised, immunisation coverage has declined from close to 90% of two year olds in 2016 to 82% this year. There are also many years of historically lower coverage levels, so immunisation coverage drops down to around 70% in Northland children now aged 11-12 years old. Around one in 4 teenagers, 1 in 5 young adults, and 1 in 10 30-49 year olds in Northland are not immune to measles.

Northland’s immunisation rate is a concern because it is not high enough to limit the spread of measles from person to person and the impending school holidays and the added challenge of several large inter-school competitions happening over the next week or two increases the risk of more measles cases. Travelling and large gatherings are an ideal breeding ground for viruses like measles and health officials are urging the community to take up the FREE vaccination on offer which all New Zealanders are eligible for.

If you are not sure if you have had a MMR vaccine, check with your usual general practice, or look in your Well Child book. If you can’t find any records, the safest thing to do is to be immunised.

You can spread measles before you know that this is what is making you sick. Symptoms can include a fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes or other flu like symptoms. Most people don’t realise they have the disease until they develop the rash 3-5 days after they began to feel unwell. The rash typically starts on the head and face and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Individuals or their family members, who have symptoms suggestive of measles should immediately seek advice from a doctor, and avoid contact with young children. However, it is recommended that they call their doctor instead of visiting them to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting others.

“If you are found to be a contact of case of measles (and not immune) you will need to stay away from work, school or public places for up to 14 days, to help prevent putting other people at risk.”

The Medical Officer of Health will be enforcing these exclusion periods, to ensure that our community is protected, so the best way to avoid this is to get up to date with your immunisations now.

Protect Yourself - Be Immunised with MMR

Immunisation with MMR vaccine is safe and highly effective. One immunisation with MMR protects 95% of people. Measles is the most infectious illness there is and spreads very easily from person to person. Northland District Health Board is advising MMR immunisation for those aged 1-49 years of age who have no records of having at least one MMR vaccine.

• MMR immunisation is usually given at 15 months and four years
• MMR immunisation can be given to children from 12 months of age.
• One in five teenagers and young adults are not immune to measles, and many don’t still have their immunisation records.
• If you are unsure if you have been immunised, it is safe to get MMR.
• It is never too late to be immunised
• MMR immunisation is free from any general practice

What is Measles?

Measles is a viral illness for which there is no treatment. Measles is one of the most infectious diseases in humans, and under-immunised people who come within two metres of an infectious person, however briefly, have a 90 percent chance of contracting measles.

Complications of measles are common, and so far this year, four out of every 10 people with measles have been admitted to hospital.

For more information see https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles, call Healthline on 0800 611 116, or speak with your family doctor.

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