Measles outbreak now South Island wide

Wednesday April 11, 2018

​Two further cases of measles have now been confirmed - one in Nelson and the other in Christchurch.

These are linked to the three cases notified late last week which were reported in Queenstown, Wanaka and Christchurch.

Given the geographical spread of those affected, Public Health officials across the South Island are urging anyone with symptoms suggestive of measles to phone for health advice in the first instance.

Canterbury DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says "it's important that people who think they may have symptoms of measles don't visit GP rooms or after-hours clinics. Instead, please phone your family doctor/general practice team first for advice, to limit further exposure to other people."

Chest of a young person showing distinctive measles spots.Measles is a notifiable disease. It is a highly infectious viral illness spread by contact with respiratory secretions through coughing and sneezing.

Unimmunised people exposed to measles first develop a respiratory type of illness with dry cough, runny nose, temperature over 38.5 C and feel very unwell.

The rash starts on day 4 or 5 of the illness usually on the face and moving down to the chest and arms.

Contact Healthline for free advice 24 hours a day (0800 611 116) if you or anyone has the symptoms described above or believes they may have been exposed..

Investigation of the outbreak continues

Public Health staff have been unable to trace the source of the outbreak, this person may have had a relatively mild illness and will now be fully recovered.

They have been able to determine that the first three confirmed cases all visited Queenstown Airport on March 22nd and those cases, and others infected since, have travelled on domestic flights within the South Island and may have visited supermarkets, restaurants, camp grounds, various recreational facilities and other public places.

Investigations are continuing and close contacts are being identified for follow up. Nelson Marlborough DHB, Southern DHB and Canterbury DHB Public Health Units are working with affected work places to provide advice to staff.

Checking you are immunised against measles

Dr Pink says "people are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash to five days after the rash starts and should stay in isolation during this time. This means staying home from school or work and having no contact with unimmunised people.

You will have the best protection available if your vaccinations are up-to-date. If you are unsure, you can check your vaccination status with your family doctor or general practice, although there is no harm in getting an additional dose."

The Public Health team in Nelson is investigating whether the latest case had been immunised to protect against measles; the other four cases had not been immunised.  The cases range in age from 13 months to 46 years old.

People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.

The best way to protect yourself from measles is to have two MMR vaccinations. MMR is available from your family practice and is free to eligible people.

Get more information on measles on the Ministry of Health website.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions on measles. (Ministry of Health).

Note: The MMR vaccine is funded for all children from 12 months of age and adults born on or after 1 January 1969 who have not completed a two dose course of MMR vaccine.

Page last reviewed: 11 April 2018
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