One further measles case was identified yesterday, bringing the total number of cases for the current outbreak to seven. The latest case is a young child, with no obvious connection with the six cases at IPU (New Zealand).
Medical Officer of Health, Dr Rob Weir said: “It is likely that the child has come into contact with one of the other cases in the community, before the outbreak was reported and the initial cases were placed in quarantine. Measles spreads from person to person through the air from breathing, coughing and sneezing, and contact with those secretions. Even a short period of exposure may be enough for the disease to spread.”
The latest case attends a daycare centre, and Public Health staff are working closely with the centre, checking immunisation status for the children and staff. Children who have not had their scheduled MMR vaccination at 15 months of age will need to stay in isolation.
Dr Weir says: “Staying in isolation means staying at home, and not attending daycare or going to the supermarket or other community spaces. Even the local park or swimming pool is off limits, as measles is highly infectious. We acknowledge that this will be a problem for some families, particularly for parents who work, but we re-emphasise that measles is a serious illness, particuarly for those with lowered immunity.”
The case also visited the Palmerston North City Library on the morning of Thursday 9th of February, and the Toy Library in Church Street on the afternoon of Monday 13th February. Anyone visiting these facilities at the times indicated may have been exposed to the measles virus.
Measles symptoms include: fever, runny nose, cough, and sore red eyes. After 3-5 days a rash appears on the head and spreads down the body.
Dr Weir notes that: “Measles can occur at any time, and it is important that everyone is vaccinated against this disease. In New Zealand for people eligible for publicly funded health care both the vaccine and the appointment to receive it is free for anyone born after 1969 – people born before that date are considered to be immune, as they were most likely exposed to the virus. In order to arrange you or your family’s vaccination please contact your general practice team or 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) for more information on the vaccine.”
Dr Weir said: “It is very important that anyone who thinks they may have measles should stay away from work, school or public places. If you think you might have measles I recommend you contact your GP (by phone first) or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for more advice. It is very important you tell your GP that you think you might have measles before going in to the surgery.
Contact: Communications Unit (06) 350-8945