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Schools told to act now to prevent further spread

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

Schools and pre-schools in Wairarapa have been told to act now to avoid a measles outbreak.

While there have been no reported cases in Wairarapa for more than 20 years, Regional Public Health sent a warning to schools and early childhood centres yesterday that people will move around during the school holiday period [April 13-28] and the measles outbreak in other parts of the country was likely to spread.

As of Thursday, 26 people in Canterbury had been infected by the highly contagious and dangerous disease.

Two cases of measles had also been identified in Auckland and two in Otago, where authorities are warning sick Crusaders fans to stay away from the Highlanders-Crusaders match being played in Dunedin this weekend.

The last measles cases in Wairarapa were one in May 1997 and another in January 1998.

While measles immunisation is free, Regional Public Health warned that people need to act fast to be safe before the holidays as it takes a fortnight to develop protection after being immunised.

After a single dose of the measles vaccine, 90-95 out of 100 people will be protected from measles – after two doses approximately 99 per cent of people are protected.

Children from 15 months old to four years old are considered fully immunised if they have one measles jab.

Regional Public Health medical officer of health Dr Annette Nesdale said that in the event of someone getting measles Regional Public Health would follow up all the people and places the person had interacted with.

“We follow up all the contacts and places where that person has been to identify anyone else who could be at risk.

“We [also] advise the public about the occurrence of a case and steps they can take to stay well using a variety of communication methods.”

Measles symptoms take 10-12 days to show up from the time the illness is contracted.

The first symptoms to appear are a fever followed by a cough, runny nose, then sore red eyes.

Two to four days after the first symptoms a rash will appear, lasting about a week.

Nesdale said the National Immunisation Register which began in 2004 recorded immunisations given to babies from 2004 onwards.

“However, for people older than this there is no national or local data to determine how many people are immunised.

“The focus is on encouraging people who have had one or no vaccine, or are unsure, to get protected through immunisation.”

People born from 1969 to 1980 are some of the most at risk of contracting measles as during this time period it was standard for doctors to give only one measles vaccination.

It is recommended that people born from 1991 to 1996 check their vaccinations with their doctors as the age children received their second vaccines changed from 11 to four during this time and they may have missed the second vaccination.

What is measles?

  • Measles is one of the most infectious airborne diseases and a person is most contagious in the five days before a rash appears.
  • One in 10 people with measles need hospital treatment and the most serious cases can result in deafness or swelling of the brain.