The number of people around the country who have contracted measles continues to grow, with a total of 1,277 cases having been confirmed between the start of the year and 8.30am on Monday 16th September.
Over the last two weeks there have been 295 cases confirmed, with 248 of these being from the wider Auckland region.
The first person to have contracted measles in MidCentral this year was notified in May, having contracted it outside of our district. The second person had travelled from Auckland several weeks ago, stayed in our district for several days before returning to Auckland.
The most recent person with measles had been in contact with the second affected person and has been in isolation apart from a visit to their GP. All patients who were in the waiting room at the time, and who are deemed to have been potentially exposed to the measles virus, have been traced and spoken to by staff from MidCentral’s Public Health Service.
Those who are less than 50 years of age and who have not been vaccinated, or who are unsure of their vaccination status, are being actively monitored by the service.
Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr Jonathan Jarman advised people that measles is highly infectious, so anyone who isn’t immune is at risk if they come in to contact with the disease.
“It spreads from person to person through the air from breathing, coughing and sneezing, and contact with those secretions. The disease is contagious from just before symptoms begin until about five days after onset of the rash. The illness usually starts between 10 and 14 days after contact with the measles virus.”
Symptoms of measles include: high fever, runny nose, hacking cough, and sore red eyes. After three to five days a rash appears on the head and spreads down the body.
There has been a huge public response to the current measles situation and this has meant unprecedented demand for vaccinations across the country.
Vaccination is the best way for people to protect themselves against measles, and is available from your General Practice Team, Dr Jarman said. “However, it is not possible to vaccinate everyone at once.”
The Ministry of Health is currently recommending that the people most at risk of measles should receive a MMR vaccination first. The current emphasis is to ensure the national immunisation schedule continues on track and children receive their free routine MMR immunisations on time at 15 months and 4 years of age.
“The other two priority groups are people who are most affected by the outbreak in Auckland, and offering vaccination to children aged up to 14 years who haven’t received any MMR vaccinations.”
One dose of vaccine is effective in 95% of people. After two doses, more than 99% people are protected.
Adults and people who would like a second MMR vaccine are being asked to be patient, so that young children and children under the age of 14 years with no vaccinations can get immunised first and our medical centres can focus their services on those who need it most.
Children are routinely vaccinated at 15 months’ and four years’, and need both MMR vaccinations to gain full immunity from measles.
Anyone who thinks they may have measles should stay away from work, school or public places.
If you think you might have measles, it is recommended that you contact your GP (by phone first) or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for more advice. It is important that you tell your GP that you think you might have measles before going in to the practice.