Auckland measles outbreak - advice for parents

Immunisation is your best protection against measles, which is an incredibly infectious and serious illness.

Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine are free for all unimmunised or partially immunised people who were born on or after 1 January 1969, and are over 12 months’ old.

There have now been over 660 confirmed cases of the measles in the Auckland region this year. While small outbreaks of measles are not uncommon, concern will increase as these numbers rise.

Measles advice from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service - 23 August 2019

Who needs to get immunised?

Those most in need are:

  • Children aged 12 months to 5 years who have not received any doses of MMR (the second dose usually administered at 4 years old can be brought forward to no sooner than four weeks after the first dose).
  • Children and young adults aged 5 to 28 who have not been immunised or have only received one dose of MMR.
  • Adults aged 29 to 50, a cohort who only received one dose of the measles vaccine.

People born before 1 January 1969 are considered to be low risk and do not require vaccination.

Two doses of MMR vaccine are funded for all unimmunised or partially immunised people who were born after 1 January 1969, over 12 months’ old and are NZ residents or on a two year working visa.

Child under one?

Vaccination of this age group does not provide full immunity. It’s better to vaccinate older age groups to provide immunity for the younger.

Plunket Chief Nurse Dr Jane O’Malley explains: “The measles virus is incredibly infectious. You have a 90% chance of catching it just by walking past someone who has the disease. That’s why the first priority is to immunise people who are most mobile in society, and who haven’t had the two doses of MMR, as they are the most likely to spread the disease.”

“By immunising these people, you provide a wall of protection (‘herd immunisation’), and essentially help protect everyone – including babies under 12 months.”

If you live in Auckland and are concerned for your young child’s safety, the best thing to do is to make sure the people your child regularly interacts with (whānau, carers) have received their two doses of MMR.

MMR does not cause autism

Dr O’Malley adds: “We know one of the reasons for the reluctance to vaccinate is the myth that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. But that’s simply not true. Recently a new study (with some 650,000+ participants) again proved the MMR vaccine is not linked with autism.

“Plunket appreciate parents only want the best for their children, and it can be frightening to think that vaccines could harm them. Immunising your child has proven to be the best protection you can give them against measles, mumps and rubella,” says Dr O’Malley.

Measles symptoms

Measles symptoms include a respiratory-type of illness with dry cough, runny nose and headache. Temperatures can be over 38.5C and people feel very unwell.

A red blotchy rash starts on day four to five, usually on the face before moving to the chest and arms. The time between exposure and the first symptoms is about 10 days. People are considered infectious from about five days before to five days after rash appears.

Checking your immunisation status 

 

For more information

For up to date advice on the Auckland measles outbreak, please follow Auckland Regional Public Health Service website on Facebook and check their website.

You can also call HealthLine on 0800 611 116, your local GP, or PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 if you suspect a family member may have measles symptoms.

If you do have questions around immunisation, please feel free to call 0800 IMMUNE (466 863) or a PlunketLine Nurse on 0800 933 922 - or have a chat with your Doctor, Nurse Practitioner or Practice Nurse.

If you suspect you have measles or have been exposed to measles, please call ahead and advise your doctor so they can make a plan for you before visiting the clinic.

by Angela Eglinton 27 August 2019

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