Measles outbreak travel warning

by Paul Campbell

The Northland District Health Board has issued a warning for people planning to travel to Auckland, where more than 800 cases of measles are confirmed, to be vaccinated at least two weeks before travelling.

Four measles cases in Kaipara was the latest statistic available from the Northland District Health Board as of midday on Monday this week, after earlier notification that there are victims in Kaiwaka and Mangawhai for a total of 35 cases across Northland.

“The source of measles for all of these cases originated in the Auckland region either from visiting and acquiring measles there or being exposed to measles by visitors from Auckland — with local spread to others, “ said NDHB communications officer, Paula Martin.

Of these cases “three were children less than 15 months of age and too young to be immunised, two children were not immunised on medical advice, and eight were old enough to be immunised but weren’t.”

Around one in 10 Northland children and one in four teenagers haven’t ad a vaccination and there is now an outreach service for homes as well as schools.

Medical centres in Kaipara all offer Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccinations while there is also a free drop-in clinic on Commerce St in Whangarei between 8.30am to 4pm on Tuesday and Thursday. No appointment is needed.

“Northland immunisation service focus is ensuring equity,“ said DHB service manager, Kathryn Bowmar. “The outreach service is focussed on supporting families and whanau that have difficulty accessing healthcare to access vaccinations.”

Many people living in Northland regularly travel to Auckland, which means their chances of being exposed are high. “Vaccination is our best protection,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr Catherine Jackson.

It has been estimated to prevent recurrent outbreaks of measles, 90 per cent of the population must be immune. To reach this level, 95 per cent of people must have had at least one MMR vaccination.

Northland’s immunisation rate is a concern because it is not high enough to limit the spread of measles from person to person and the impending school holidays and the added challenge of several large inter-school competitions happening during the next week or two increases the risk of more cases.

Travelling and large gatherings are an ideal virus breeding ground.

“Individuals or their family members, who have symptoms suggestive of measles should immediately seek advice from a doctor, and avoid contact with young children. However, it is recommended that they call their doctor instead of visiting them to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting others.”

“If you are found to be in contact with a case of measles (and not immune) you will need to stay away from work, school or public places for up to 14 days, to help prevent putting other people at risk.”

For more information health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.