Health officials have declared the measles outbreak officially over in the Canterbury region but are warning the disease is still only a plane ride away.

“While it’s great we can declare Canterbury’s measles outbreak officially over, the reality is that measles is only a plane ride away,” Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Ramon Pink said.

Cases are still being reported in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Northland, Wellington and Waikato DHB areas.

Pink said all of these cases have come from travellers bringing the disease from overseas.

“Measles is running rampant in several countries right now – the number of new cases worldwide rose by 300 per cent during the first three months of 2019.

“Measles is an ever present threat and the only way we can stop measles from returning is to increase immunity in our community,” Pink said.

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.

Pink said people from right across the Canterbury Health System have worked tirelessly over the past three months to put the lid on this outbreak.

“There’s been a huge response from primary care, labs, Christchurch Hospital as well as public health action in contact tracing and case management.

“Cantabrians have responded extremely well themselves, and I’d like to thank them for taking this outbreak so seriously, adhering to our advice and getting vaccinated.”

He said although the region had achieved a great result, increasing the immunity of the community was still needed to minimise the impact of another measles outbreak.

Another 20 New Zealanders contracted measles last week, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 135 so far this year.

In Canterbury, there have been 38 cases confirmed this year. In Auckland there have been 53.

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 4 years old. In an outbreak, this timing may change.

Anyone who has not had two documented doses of MMR vaccine is eligible for free vaccines.

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 your GP.
Please do not just turn up to your GP, after-hours or emergency department because you could potentially infect others.

Source: NZ Herald


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