Measles travels north from Waikato

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PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE: The measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine can be a life-saver for children - and some adults. PICTURE/SUPPLIED
PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE: The measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine can be a life-saver for children - and some adults. PICTURE/SUPPLIED

A case of measles has been confirmed in the Kaeo area. The patient had participated in the national kapa haka competition in Hamilton on April 16, Northland DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Virginia McLaughlin saying there had been at least 11 confirmed cases in the Waikato.

"Measles is highly infectious, and if children are not immunised there is a very high chance they will get sick if they are exposed to someone with measles," she said.

And it wasn't only children who were at risk. Those regarded as not immune to the disease included everyone born after January 1, 1969, who have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine or had not had a laboratory result showing immunity.

Children over four years old who had not received their second dose of MMR vaccine and infants under the age of 15 months who had not received their first routine vaccination were at risk.

Measles was spread by tiny droplets in the air and was very infectious, Dr McLaughlin said. The first symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes) could be mistaken for a cold, with the rash appearing on the face and neck, and spreading over the body), three to five days later.

"Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea," she added.

"This is an avoidable disease where there is an effective vaccine. Immunisation protects not only the individual, but also stops the spread of this disease within our communities. Please double-check that your child is not at risk and catch up on any missed vaccinations. Vaccination is a much better option than having a very sick child at home for a couple of weeks."

Dr McLaughlin recommended that the first MMR be given at 12 months while measles was present in the community, followed by a second a month later, to ensure maximal protection. Unimmunised people who had contact with someone with measles would normally be advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after contact.

Anyone born before 1969, or had received two doses of MMR, could reasonably assume they were already immune, while anyone displaying symptoms should immediately phone their doctor (to advise of the symptoms and to allow arrangements to be make an assessment without infecting others) or Healthline (0800 611-116) for advice.

- Northland Age

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