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Cases of measles confirmed in the Canterbury region

Wednesday, February 27, 2019   Posted in: Signatory Notice Board By: Administrator With tags: health, medical, disease, advice

Canterbury DHB media release: 26th February 2019

Three measles cases have been confirmed in the past four days in Canterbury.

The three confirmed cases come from Rangiora and Christchurch and include a teenage male, and one male and one female – both in their 40s. None are thought to have been fully immunised against measles.

Unimmunised people who come within 2 metres of an infectious person – however briefly – have a 90 percent chance of contracting measles.

Measles is a serious, highly infectious, potentially life-threatening disease. One in ten people who get measles will need treatment in hospital. Up to 30 percent will develop complications – usually children under 5 and adults over the age of 20. Measles during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and low birth-weight in babies.

Unimmunised people exposed to measles first develop a respiratory type illness with dry cough, runny nose, temperature over 38.5°C and feel very unwell. The rash starts on day 4 or 5 of the illness – usually on the face and then it moves down to the chest and arms.

Community and Public Health is working to identify all close contacts, determining their immunisation status and offering vaccination. Staff are awaiting test results for a small number of suspected cases and any further confirmed cases will be notified.

People are considered immune if they:

  • have received two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine;
  • have had a measles illness previously; or
  • were born before 1969.

What you need to know if you think you may have measles

Canterbury DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink advises that people are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash until five days after the rash appears.  People should stay in isolation from the time that they may have become infected until five days after the rash first appears. “This means staying home from school or work and having no contact with unimmunised people. If others in your household are unimmunised, they need to stay in isolation too.

People need to have two MMR vaccinations for the best protection against measles. You will be protected if your vaccinations are up-to-date. You can check your vaccination status with your general practice team if you are unsure. The MMR vaccine is free for some people.

“Measles is very infectious, so it’s important people with symptoms don’t visit their GP or after-hours clinics. Phone your family doctor or general practice team for advice instead – to limit further exposure to other people,” says Dr Pink.

Anyone with measles symptoms or who believes they may have been exposed can contact their usual general practice 24/7 for additional advice.  A nurse will answer a call to your general practice team after hours and will advise you on what to do and where to go if you need to be seen.

Key information about measles including signs and symptoms

  • Measles is a highly infectious viral illness spread by contact with respiratory secretions through coughing and sneezing.
  • Symptoms of measles include:
    • A respiratory type of illness with dry cough, runny nose, and headache;
    • Temperature over 38.5ºC and feeling very unwell; and
    • A red blotchy rash starts on day 4-5 of the illness usually on the face and moves to the chest and arms.
  • People are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash to five days after the rash starts.
  • Infected persons should stay in isolation – staying home from school or work – during this time.
  • The best protection from measles is to have two MMR vaccinations. MMR is available from your family practice and is free to eligible persons.
  • People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.
  • Anyone believing they have been exposed to measles or exhibiting symptoms should not go to the Emergency Department, after hours’ clinic or general practitioner. Instead call your GP any time 24/7 for free health advice.

Healthy Christchurch Champions

  • Canterbury District Health Board
  • Christchurch City Council
  • Environment Canterbury
  • Ministry of Health
  • Ngai Tahu
  • NZ Police
  • Pegasus Health
  • University of Otago, Christchurch