A measles outbreak in Canterbury has spread to 28 confirmed cases and, according to the Canterbury District Health Board, that number is expected to rise as the highly infectious virus spreads throughout the community.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service have also reported four cases of the disease in their area (as of 18th March 2019).
Canterbury DHB, the Ministry of Health, and PHARMAC have responded to the outbreak by setting up a priority system of vaccinations for those most at risk. Thousands of doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine have been brought in to Canterbury to meet the demand. However, thousands more doses are needed in order to protect everyone. The priority for vaccination, at present, is:
- Children 12 months to 13 years old who have not received any MMR vaccinations. Usually the first dose is given at 15 months but this can be brought forward to 12 months.
- Those aged 14 to 28 who have not been immunised.
One dose of the MMR vaccine gives 95% of people immunity. The second dose is usually given at four years old but can be brought forward to four weeks after the first dose (but no sooner). The Canterbury DHB confirmed that 9,300 Cantabrians aged between 12 months and 13 years old were not immunised against measles.
If you are unsure of your vaccination status, or that of your child, your GP clinic should be able to check their records.
Stopping the spread
If you contract the measles, the Ministry of Health advice is to isolate yourself to protect vulnerable people, like babies, pregnant women, and those with compromised immunity or those who cannot be immunised. You should remain isolated until 5 days after the rash appears.
“Anyone who is sick should also stay away from work, school or public places, to help prevent putting other people at risk. This also applies if you or a family member aren’t fully immunised and may have been in contact with someone with measles,” says the Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, (Ministry of Health).
If you suspect you have measles, you should call your doctor and inform them of the potential for measles before visiting the clinic. Alternatively, call Healthline on 0800 611 116, for advice. Check the Canterbury DHB website for the latest information.
Symptoms and infectious period
Often the first indications of the measles virus present similar to a cold or the flu. These may include a cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis, headache, and a fever (above 38.5C). Next comes a blotchy rash around four to five days after contracting the illness. The rash tends to appear on the face, chest and arms. The patient will be infectious from around five days before and until five days after the rash appears.
Some schools in the Canterbury region are asking parents to keep unvaccinated children at home, as well as those that are infectious.
Unvaccinated kept away from school
Meanwhile law-makers in Italy have made it compulsory for children to be vaccinated before attending school. Children up to age six will be excluded from nursery and kindergarten without proof of vaccination under the new rules. Ages six to 16 cannot be banned from attending school, but parents can be fined. The law is focused on raising Italy’s vaccination rates from below 80% to 95% – the World Health Organisation’s target.
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”