There are now nine confirmed cases of measles in Northland, up three from the end of last week. The new cases range in age from 25 to 58, were unimmunised and all live in Whangarei.
Contact tracing has identified that people had unknowingly visited Whangarei Hospital when they were infectious and before the rash had appeared which highlights the extreme care we all need to be taking.
“We know that measles is circulating in Northland and is well and truly here now so we need everyone in the community to be vigilant around the signs and symptoms and to know what to do if you have been exposed or are exhibiting symptoms of measles,” said Dr. Catherine Jackson, Medical Officer of Health.
“Measles is a serious, highly infectious, potentially life-threatening disease, and immunisation is the only sure way to avoid getting measles,” Dr. Jackson said.
Symptoms of measles start with a high fever and cough and runny nose and sore red eyes, and then after three or four days a rash appears on the face and then spreads to the body. Measles is infectious for 5 days before the rash starts until 5 days after the rash has appeared and spreads very easily.
“It is really important to stay at home until you feel better, and for at least 5 days after the rash appears. If you get a rash then call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice and information in the first instance.” Some people get very unwell with measles, if you need to see a doctor please call ahead to your GP or the emergency department so they can prepare for your arrival.
All three new cases have been very unwell with one person being cared for in ICU. And, there are another 30 people and their close contacts in isolation because they are at high risk of getting measles and passing it on.
If there is a case of measles at a school, early childhood centre or workplace, the Northland Public Health Unit (NPHU) will request that unimmunised adults and/or children do not attend the facility for up to two weeks if they have been exposed to someone with measles.
NPHU is aware of the impact of isolation for a week or more has on family and working lives.
“However, we have to balance this with the need to prevent further spread of measles, and to protect infants, those most at risk of complications if they contract the disease and the wider community.
“We do want to thank people for staying in isolation and for being immunised because this is really helping stop the spread of measles.”
One complicating factor at this time of year is the presence of influenza which has similar signs and symptoms at the start of measles infection.
“Anyone visiting the emergency department who is unwell is being asked to wear a mask, which is supplied from the security desk.
“We also ask that if you are feeling unwell please don’t visit family or friends in the hospital until you are feeling better,” said Dr. Jackson. “Immunisation is the best way to avoid getting measles during this outbreak and is free from any GP, if in doubt get immunised.”