The measles outbreak is showing no signs of easing with another 28 cases notified around New Zealand in a week – and analysis indicates the outbreaks were caused by eight people.
In Auckland alone, another five cases have been reported since yesterday, according to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, taking the total number of cases in the region to 154.
Data from Environmental Science and Research (ESR) showed that during the week ending June 28, 28 cases were notified in Auckland, Wellington and Northland with 17 of those in the Counties Manukau DHB region.
So far this year there had been at least 260 confirmed measles cases in New Zealand.
Analysis of the virus strains circulating indicated eight separate outbreaks meaning all of the cases reported around the country had come from eight individuals who had arrived from overseas.
ESR public health physician Dr Jill Sherwood said there was no reason to believe the continuing rise in notified cases reflected a new outbreak.
“It does, however, underscore the critical need for higher vaccination rates across the New Zealand population and for people to isolate themselves during the infectious period for measles,” she said.
ESR data showed 109 people had been hospitalised with the measles.
Fifty babies under 15 months old had caught the disease and 31 of them needed hospital treatment.
Sherwood said it was particularly important people be aware of the disease as travel increased with the start of the school holidays next week.
Measles was a serious and highly infectious disease, she said. Once contracted, people were infectious from five days before a rash appeared until five days after.
The only thing which could stop the spread was higher vaccination rates, Sherwood said.
“The pattern is clear. Outbreaks start when measles is brought into the country by someone who has travelled in from overseas. The virus then spreads to others in the community because our vaccination rates are simply not high enough to prevent disease spread.
“Babies who are too young to be vaccinated and immuno-compromised people are particularly at risk, and protection for these groups relies on high levels of immunity in the wider community.”
The Ministry of Health advised all people in New Zealand born since January 1, 1969 to have two measles, mumps, rubella vaccinations which were available from GPs for free.
Under the National Immunisation Schedule, MMR vaccinations for infants were recommended at ages 15 months and four years. However, the first dose had been brought forward to 12 months in the Auckland region due to the increasing number of cases.
Anyone who suspected they may have the disease should avoid contact with other people and phone their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.
It is important to call first because measles is highly infectious and people with measles can infect others in the waiting room.