Measles case prompts immunisation warning

Friday December 11, 2015

Health officials have issued a measles warning following confirmation an infected tourist has visited Wellington, Marlborough, and Canterbury in the past week.

The 28-year-old European tourist first became aware of measles-like symptoms on Monday (7 December), visiting a Kaikoura General Practice Team two days later (9 December). Laboratory testing confirmed measles yesterday (10 December).

The case had stayed in Wellington and Motueka while infectious but prior to being diagnosed. It is likely the case contracted measles while in Australia.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey, says measles is highly infectious.

"The measles virus spreads easily from person to person through the air, via breathing, coughing and sneezing. It starts with fever, runny nose, cough, red eyes, and sore throat. This is followed by a rash that spreads over the body," Dr Humphrey says.

People who aren't fully immunised are being asked to keep a close eye out for measles symptoms.

"We're asking people who haven't been immunised and who may have been in contact with the case to keep a close eye out for these symptoms. If you develop symptoms phone a doctor and let them know that you have potentially been in contact with a confirmed measles case.

Dr Humphrey has commended the actions of the tourist since becoming aware of the possibility of having measles.

"Once the case realised he could have measles he did all the right things. By isolating himself he has greatly reduced the likelihood of further spread, and possibly saved lives as well," Dr Humphrey says.

"The case is one of a relatively small number of people who for medical reasons aren't able to be vaccinated. Their protection relies on those of us who can get vaccinated to do so. The more people who get vaccinated, the safer everyone will be."

The case is currently staying in a private house outside Christchurch with people who are fully immunised. His infectious period ends at midnight tonight (11 December).

Dr Humphrey says the New Zealand tourist industry needs to be on alert for possible measles cases.

"Over the next few years there is a heightened risk of measles as a result of the decision by parents in the 1990s not to get their children immunised due to now discredited research on the link between the measles vaccine and autism.

"While it's important to get vaccines on time, every time, it's never too late. For more information on immunisation speak to your doctor," Dr Humphrey says.

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

The case's travel history

3-5 December: Comfort Hotel, Cuba Street, Wellington
Case symptom free. Infectious period begins.

5 December: BlueBridge Ferry 
Sailed from Wellington at 8am.

5-7 December: Motueka Holiday Top 10 (private cabin)
Shows first symptoms 7 December.

8-10 December: Lazy Shag Backpackers, Kaikoura -  isolated himself in a private room.
9 December: Visits doctor who notifies Canterbury DHB of suspected measles case.
10 December: Lab test confirms measles.

11 December: Travels by car to private residence outside Christchurch
Infectious period to end at midnight 11 December.

Page last reviewed: 11 December 2015
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