Measles case in Canterbury prompts warning

Tuesday September 20, 2011

​Canterbury District Health Board’s Community and Public Health Division has been notified of a confirmed case of measles in Christchurch.

The case is a student at Canterbury University who became unwell last week and had contact with other people at Canterbury University and in the Riccarton community while infectious.

Known contacts have been advised that if they have not been immunised they may be at risk of developing measles.

The case had recently visited Auckland, where there is currently a measles outbreak. There are 147 confirmed measles cases in the Auckland region with further possible cases under investigation.

Measles is a highly infectious viral infection. It is easily spread from person to person through the air by breathing, coughing and sneezing.

Measles is a serious illness and one out of every ten people who catch it will need to be hospitalised. The MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine offers the best protection against measles. Two doses are required to give maximum protection. These are usually given at around 15 months and four years.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink, says “This is a powerful reminder to parents to make sure their children are immunised. All caregivers, particularly those concerned that their children could be at risk, should check their children’s immunisation record and if they have not been immunised contact their GP and arrange for it to be done”.

The MMR vaccination is an effective vaccine, giving life-long immunity.

Anyone who is concerned that they or a family member may have measles should phone their General Practice team. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • At first, a fever, runny nose and sore red eyes (conjunctivitis),

  • After a few days, a red blotchy rash appears which lasts for up to a week. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

  • Spots on the inside of the mouth

It’s important to call your doctor first as measles is easily spread from person to person through the air. Phoning ahead helps ensure people with measles do not end up sitting in a waiting room, potentially spreading the illness to others.

Measles is now uncommon in New Zealand thanks to vaccination. There were three outbreaks in 2009/2010, all of which were started by people who were infected overseas.

Background information

How to protect yourself and your family against measles

Measles can’t easily be treated once you get it, so the only way to prevent the disease is through immunisation.

Canterbury DHB encourages parents and families to check that their children’s immunisations are up-to-date. In addition, adults born after 1969 who are unsure whether they are immune should check with their family doctor.

By getting immunised, you will not only be protecting yourself or your child, you’ll also be stopping the disease from spreading in our communities.

Who is eligible for free measles immunisation?

Anyone, over the age of one year, who was born after 1969 and who has not had two doses of measles vaccine in the past. Call your General Practice team (family doctor) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. After hours your call will be answered by a registered nurse who can advise you on what to do and where to go. ​

Page last reviewed: 13 February 2014
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