Measles Outbreak: What You Need to Know

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).

Priority vaccinations

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.

For more information on measles, visit our family health section.

Did you get measles when you were a child?

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her world julieWritten 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”


  1. kymmage 31/03/2019 at 10:39 pm

    So glad both my kids are protected with MMR. But am starting to question if I am covered. I can’t find my records and I’m a bit scared to ask. I’m not very good with needles 🙄 but I know I need to do something about it.

  2. dawnblyth 31/03/2019 at 10:24 pm

    Both my children have had their immunisations, and my husband and I have had one when we were younger. We haven’t had measles as children but I was talking to my Dad, 65 this year, who had measles when he was younger. He told me, as one of 14 children, there were three or four of the children all had measles at one time. They were put together in one room and treated together – kept away from the other siblings. I believe we all need to take the right steps to keep ourselves and others safe.

  3. SarahBlair 31/03/2019 at 9:55 pm

    My kids are all fully vaccinated but I know quite a few families that are against vaccination, I personally don’t think that it’s worth the risk especially when there are outbreaks like this. I had measles as I child, my brother had it several times as his body didn’t seem to be able to build an immunity to it

  4. Alezandra 27/03/2019 at 11:21 pm

    Just heard that it’s indeed spreading and I’ve just set an appointment recently for my 4 year old (who is just turning 4 in a few days). I think this is especially important to be done before the school holidays when travel is more common around the country. I do hope people are getting vaccinated for this, even adults.

  5. MuddledUpMolly 26/03/2019 at 12:03 pm

    Our daughter is only two months old so it is scary to hear all the news about the measles around the country. I hope that more can be done to keep this under control 🙁

  6. Mands1980 19/03/2019 at 11:25 am

    This is scary how it came to (NZ) measles. My children are all fully immunised but it’s the babies and others who can’t be immunised it would be a very worrying time for those parents and people. I have never had measles as was vaccinated as a child too.

  7. Bevik1971 18/03/2019 at 4:45 pm

    Not great reading about this outbreak 🙁 my 6 year old is fully immunised thankfully – her school even called me last week to check as they said they didn’t have her immunisation record on file, so I took her Plunket book in to copy! Hopefully it won’t increase in numbers and keep our wee ones safe

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