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Measles in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes - Update #9

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Since our last report on 3rd May, there have been five additional cases of measles confirmed in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts. This brings the total number of confirmed measles cases since the start of April to 22, of which seven have needed hospital treatment. Case numbers are updated daily at www.toiteora.govt.nz/measles.

All of the additional cases have been in people who have been in quarantine. "Since the beginning of April the public health team has followed up more than 400 people who may have shared indoor air with an infectious person, such as people in the same household, school classmates, others in a hospital or clinic waiting room, or work colleagues," says Medical Officer of Health, Dr Jim Miller. "Those who have been contacted and are not immune are then asked to stay at home and we keep in touch with them to check for symptoms."

This ensures that should the person become unwell with measles, that the wider public are not put at further risk. Quarantine is one of the ways that we can bring an outbreak under control.

"Each of these new cases had been in contact with someone who was infectious, and had already been placed in quarantine by public health," says Dr Miller. "We’d like to thank them and their families for their cooperation in helping to prevent the spread of this serious illness."

Measles can have serious complications and is one of the most infectious diseases. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.

Following up cases and their contacts is important in containing this current outbreak, but everyone needs to play their part. "Make sure you’re up to date with your immunisations. In that way you not only protect yourself but also your community. And if you do get exposed to measles you won’t get sick or have to miss out on any school, work, or social activities. If you have already checked - thank you," says Dr Miller.

The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is free and very effective in preventing measles. After just one dose of MMR vaccine about 95% of people will be immune and so protected from measles, and 99% of people who have had two MMR doses will be immune.

People born before 1 January 1969 are also considered to be immune because virtually everyone got measles prior to the measles immunisations being introduced that year, and so this older age group (about 50 years and over) do not need to have the measles immunisations.

Measles symptoms include a fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough, followed a few days later by a rash usually starting on the face before moving down the body.

If you think you or someone in your family may have measles, please stay at home and phone your doctor to alert them of your symptoms and allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people. Please do not just turn up to your GP, after hours or emergency department without first phoning ahead as you could potentially spread the virus to others. Alternatively, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.

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