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More measles cases a reminder to get immunised

With an upswing of measles cases in Auckland, it’s important that people make sure they’re immunised against this serious disease.

Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Darren Hunt says the Ministry of Health is working closely with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, which is stepping up its response in its region.

“What we’re seeing in Auckland is that it’s not just children who are getting measles – it’s also adults. The most important thing that people can do to protect themselves and their family, and to prevent the spread of the disease, is to ensure that they have been fully immunised.”

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation is free for those who need it. It can take up to two weeks before you are fully protected.

If you were born after 1969 and you’re not sure whether you are fully immunised against measles, talk to your doctor. If you were born before this date, you’re considered to be at lower risk because you probably had measles as a child.

“People may think that this a relatively minor childhood illness, but the cases in Auckland are affecting people up to the age of 40, and some have needed to be hospitalised. Measles can lead to serious complications like pneumonia and permanent disabilities.”

Other basic measures that people can take to protect themselves and prevent the spread of viruses such as measles include washing and drying hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.

“We are keeping a careful watch on what is happening in the rest of the country. While we aren’t seeing the same rates of disease outside of Auckland at the moment, measles is very contagious and can spread rapidly among people who are not immunised,” Dr Hunt says.

Measles can make people very sick for up to two weeks with symptoms such as high fever, cough, red eyes, runny nose and a rash. If often starts as a flu-like illness. The measles rash may not appear for a few days.

If you’re concerned that you or someone in your household might have measles seek medical advice from your family doctor or call Healthline 0800 611 116.

It’s important to phone ahead before you visit a doctor to avoid spreading measles to other people in the waiting room.  If you’re not sure whether you’re fully immunised against measles and suspect you may have it or have been in contact with someone who has it, please stay away from work, school or other social activities to reduce the risk of spreading this disease.

More information about free MMR immunisation and measles is available on www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation, www.immune.org.nz and the free immunisation helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).

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