Confirmation of another two cases of measles in Taranaki is highlighting just how easily the virus can spread amongst those who are not vaccinated. The two latest cases (# 5 and #6) are family members of case #4 (reported last week).
All six cases confirmed in Taranaki so far have been unvaccinated.
Dr Jonathan Jarman, Taranaki DHB medical officer of health said, “This reinforces just how infectious this illness is. These people were otherwise fit and healthy, however they had not received any doses of the vaccine.”
Dr Jarman says, “The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and highly effective. It provides immunity for 95 percent of people after one injection and for 99 percent of people after two. It is important that the community continues to vaccinate children on time at 15 months and four years of age.”
While booster vaccines are not required for those who are fully vaccinated (having received two doses), it is not uncommon for those under 50 to have only received one dose of the vaccine, so we encourage people to check their vaccination status via their Plunket Books or GP records.
“If there is any uncertainty around whether you’ve received the second dose, book yourself in for a MMR vaccination. It is free for people aged up to 50. This is particularly important for anyone living in the same household as a baby,” Dr Jarman added.
Anyone who was born before 1969 is considered immune.
Case management of case #4 carried out by the Taranaki Public Health Unit (PHU) meant that both case #5 and #6 had been identified as high risk of contracting the virus. Well before these two people showed any sign of illness they were advised by PHU staff to stay at home away from other people, so risk of them infecting others is low.
“Current activity online around the measles outbreak and vaccines indicates that some people consider measles a mild childhood illness; however that is simply not the case. Measles is never a mild illness,” said Dr Jarman.
So far five out of the six cases in Taranaki have been people in the 20 - 29 year old age group. Two have required hospitalisation.
Measles is one of the most contagious illnesses you can get and there is no cure; we can only treat the symptoms. Very young children, people with impaired immunity, pregnant women and adults aged over 20 years are at risk of very serious health complications from measles.
“Seven people died in the 1991 New Zealand epidemic. We don’t want any deaths in this outbreak.”
The Ministry of Health is advising people travelling to Auckland, particularly South Auckland, that they should be immunised against measles before they travel and that any babies who are travelling to Auckland should have their first measles vaccine at 12 months of age (rather than 15 months). Vaccination should be carried out at least two weeks before travelling to allow their immunity to develop.
Measles is infectious before you develop the first symptoms, which begins as a flu-like illness. The tell-tale rash does not usually appear for two to four days after the other symptoms appear. By this time the person is very unwell, with red eyes, a hacking cough and a very high temperature.
“If you or anyone you know develops symptoms of measles, we ask that you please stay at home and call Healthline (0800 611 116) or your doctor to alert them of the illness, so as to reduce spread of the illness,” Dr Jarman explained.
For more information about measles visit www.tdhb.org.nz