Earlier this week the Public Health Service was notified of suspect measles in a young child. Follow-up testing has now confirmed this case is negative.
Medical Officer of Health, Dr Rob Weir said: “There were a few aspects to this case that made us question if this was a true case of measles. Therefore, we repeated the swab. That result has come back as negative. I have complete confidence based on this result and other factors that this young child does not have measles.”
While waiting for the second result, the Public Health Service treated the case as positive and the usual contact tracing process commenced in order to prevent further spread. Timing of the contact tracing was critical due to the time of onset of illness and exposure to the infectious case in various locations around Palmerston North.
Dr Weir said: “Few laboratory tests have a 100% accuracy – there is always a very small possibility that a positive result will be generated, when in fact the patient does not have the disease in question, in this case measles.”
“While it will undoubtedly have generated some concern amongst parents whose children have visited the day care centre, Toy Library or Palmerston North City library at the same time as, or shortly after the suspect case, we are now able to reassure them that there is no longer any need for isolation. Any anxiety produced is regretted but we needed to act on the results of a positive swab result and time was of the essence to minimise risk to the community. We thank everyone involved for their patience and understanding.”
However, with six cases having been confirmed recently, Dr Weir cautions against complacency: “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 in 1969 onwards – 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.
“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