An outbreak of measles has spread across the South Island with five confirmed cases.

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.

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

Canterbury DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink said staff had been unable to trace the source of the outbreak. This person may have had a relatively mild illness and now be fully recovered.

They have been able to determine that the first three confirmed cases all visited Queenstown Airport on March 22 and those cases, and others infected since, have travelled on domestic flights within the South Island and may have visited supermarkets, restaurants, campgrounds, 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.

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. If your vaccinations are up to date, you will have the best protection available. 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 was 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.

Pink said “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.”

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 four or five of the illness usually on the face and moving down to the chest and arms.

Anyone with the symptoms described above or who believes they may have been exposed, can contact Healthline 0800 611 116 (free and 24 hours) for additional advice.

Source: NZ Herald

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