There is a large and ongoing outbreak of measles in Christchurch, with 28 confirmed cases as at 14 March. Auckland and Dunedin have also reported confirmed measles cases.
MidCentral District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr Robert Weir said it was possible measles would spread to the region.
“Vaccination is the best protection against measles. MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine is normally given at 15 months and 4 years, and General Practices in MidCentral continue to follow this schedule. We are not currently offering early use of the vaccine or early administration of the second dose of the vaccine.
“However, if you have not received any measles vaccinations, I would recommend arranging to have the vaccination.”
The measles immunisation is free for those who need it.
Dr Weir said MidCentral GPs were maintaining a normal level of vaccine stocks, although some GPs in Palmerston North had experienced an increase in demand for vaccinations.
Measles is a serious disease that spreads quickly. About 30 per cent of people with measles will develop complications.
If unimmunised people are exposed to measles, they also risk spreading the virus to vulnerable people, including babies, pregnant women, cancer patients and others who are unable to be immunised.
People who are exposed to measles and cannot prove their immunity will need to be quarantined until 14 days after their last exposure. This means staying at home and missing out on things like school, work, sporting competitions and social events.
Symptoms of measles can include fever, runny nose, and sore watery red eyes that can last for several days before a red blotchy rash appears. People are infectious from five days before the rash appears to five days after.
If you think you might have measles, Dr Weir recommends 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.”