By: Emma Russell
Another 20 New Zealanders have contracted measles in the last week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 135 so far this year.
Experts say this is the highest number of measles cases they have seen nationwide in five years.
Measles is a highly infectious and potentially deadly viral disease that can spread quickly and easily through breathing, sneezing and coughing. People who are not immune to measles can catch the disease just by being in the same room as someone who has it.
While the outbreak in Canterbury seems to have been contained, Auckland and the Bay of Plenty are still experiencing a spike.
In Auckland, 53 cases have been confirmed this year.
A surveillance report by Environmental Science and Research (ESR), released on Monday, showed 50 Aucklanders had caught the deadly disease as of Friday May 10. Since then, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) have confirmed three more cases as of 2pm today.
Last week six cases were confirmed at Waitemata DHB, two at Auckland City and two at Counties Manukau.
Between Saturday May 4 and Friday May 10, there was another case in Northland, one in Waikato, two in Lakes district, two in the Bay of Plenty and one at Capital and Coast DHB.
No new cases presented in the South Island last week.
ESR’s report shows there have been 51 hospitalisation for measles nationwide this year.
Of the 132 cases reported up to last Friday, 114 had not been vaccinated, eight had been partially immunised and 10 had been fully vaccinated.
This comes after Education Minister Chris Hipkins accused parents who did not have their children vaccinated of being “pro-plague.” He also said DHBs needed to “step up in [their] responsibility on immunisations in the region.”
“I don’t believe that kids should be denied their right to an education, particularly if it’s a conscious choice by their parents not to immunise … Those kids actually are the ones who most deserve to learn about science.
“Children shouldn’t be excluded from their education because their parents are pro-plague,” Hipkins said.
Health professionals continue to urge people to ensure they are up to date with their MMR vaccines in order to protect themselves against the disease.
Children should routinely receive the MMR vaccine at 15 months and four years old. In an
outbreak, this timing may change.
Anyone who has not had two documented doses of MMR vaccine is eligible for free
Once a person contracts measles, it can be 10 to 14 days before they begin seeing symptoms. Such symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes. A few days later a rash starts on the face and neck, and then spreads to the rest of the body.
People born before January 1, 1969, are considered to be immune because virtually everyone got measles prior to the vaccine being introduced that year, and so this older age group does not need the measles immunisation.
It is particularly important to check your immunity if you are planning an overseas trip.
The Ministry of Health recently highlighted that since 2012, all outbreaks of measles in New Zealand were started by travellers bringing the disease from overseas. There are currently significant measles outbreaks in many countries.
If you are concerned about measles call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or call your GP.
Please do not just turn up to your GP, after hours or emergency department as you could potentially infect others.
Source: NZ Herald