Home > All news > Measles outbreak in the Waikato

UPDATED: 14 April 2016

There have been no new measles cases since our last statement and we are continuing to monitor the situation.

The Waikato Public Health Unit was notified of three cases of measles, a highly infectious viral illness. During their infectious periods the three people attended the Waikato Hospital Emergency Department on the Friday 25 March, Monday 4 April and Saturday 9 April respectively. 

If you attended Waikato Hospital Emergency Department on those dates you may have been exposed to the measles virus.

People who shared the same air as someone while they were infectious with measles (e.g. being in the same room) may be at risk of developing the disease if they are not already immune.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease and anyone who has had at least two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination is considered immune. People most at risk of contracting the disease are those who have either not had the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or who have just had one dose of the vaccine.

If you were exposed, there are a number of measles symptoms to look out for. The incubation period for measles is approximately two weeks meaning it can take up to two weeks from exposure to show symptoms. The first symptoms of measles are a fever, and one or more of a runny nose, cough and sore red eyes. After a few days a red blotchy rash comes on, usually starting on the face before spreading to the body and lasts up to one week.

Measles can be very serious. If you or your child becomes unwell please phone your GP or call Health line on 0800 611 116 for advice or seek medical attention depending on severity of illness. It is important to call first because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others around them for example in waiting rooms of GP surgeries or ED. Measles is spread by tiny droplets in the air and is one of the few diseases that can spread so easily to those nearby.

One of the cases also attended their school Nga Taiatea Wharekura while infectious before becoming unwell. The school has been informed, and are working with Population Health in effort to control the spread of the disease.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Felicity Dumble has circulated information about the outbreak to emergency departments and general practices.

“These are the same measures we had to put in place during the outbreaks of 2014 and 2015. We learnt very early that we had to be very strict with the quarantine and by being strict it will prevent further cases at the school,” said Dr Dumble.

“It’s a timely reminder to everyone else to check that they and their children are fully immunised against measles. Vaccination affords full immunity in the vast majority of cases.” said Dr Dumble.

People who are regarded as not immune to measles are:

  • People younger than 45 years old (born after 01 January 1969) who have not had two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine or have not had a laboratory result showing immunity
  • Children over four years old who have not received their second dose of MMR vaccine
  • Infants under the age of 15 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine. They are susceptible and rely on everyone else to be immune so that measles does not spread to them
  • If a student has only had one MMR vaccine they can receive a second MMR vaccine and return to school (as long as the vaccines are given four weeks apart)

“Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea. On average one in 10 cases will require hospitalisation,” said Dr Dumble.

In 2014 there were 124 cases of measles in Hamilton associated with an outbreak.

Immunisation is the best protection from this potentially serious disease.

“Immunisation protects not only the individual, but also blocks the spread of this disease within our communities.”

Non-immunised people who have had contact with a person with measles will normally be advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after their contact.

Anyone born before 1969 or who has received two doses of MMR can reasonably assume they are already immune.

If families suspect someone has measles they should call their doctor, where possible, before visiting to avoid spreading the disease in the waiting room.

Visit www.waikatodhb.health.nz/measles for Waikato measles information.

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