No new cases of measles have been identified following the two Auckland cases reported earlier this month by Te Whatu Ora, but health agencies warn that further cases are likely unless more people get immunised.
All contacts from the related exposure events have now been safely released from quarantine by public health. The two cases were also released from isolation earlier last week.
“With almost 1,000 people exposed, this required a major contact tracing effort that was managed swiftly and effectively by public health with the support of the community,” says Dr William Rainger, Interim Clinical Director, National Public Health Service. “Surveillance activity will continue as usual, but the risk is reduced now all non-immune contacts from this exposure have been released safely.”
“We are hugely thankful to Albany Senior High School, as well as the wider school community, for their support in stamping out the potential spread of measles.
“We cannot let our guard slip though. Measles outbreaks are still occurring across the globe, and we will see the virus in Aotearoa again sooner or later” says Dr Rainger. “Still not enough people in New Zealand are immunised against measles, which means it could just take a single person with the virus to start an outbreak. Now is the time to check if you and your whānau are immune, and to get the vaccine if needed, or if you’re not sure.”
Adds Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, Chief Medical Officer for Te Aka Whai Ora | Māori Health Authority: “These cases are a timely wake-up call of the serious risk of measles, particularly to our pēpi and tamariki. The best way you can protect them is by ensuring they are immunised against measles, and the whānau around them are also immunised.
“The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is free for anyone under 18 years old, and we’re working with hauora providers throughout the motu to make vaccination as easy as possible with pop-up clinics and community events.”
People are considered immune (protected) against measles if they were born before 1 January 1969, or they have had measles before, or had two doses of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine after the age of 12 months old.
The MMR vaccine is offered to tamariki as part of the immunisation schedule, at 12 months and 15 months old. It’s for free to everyone aged 18 and under in New Zealand, and all adults born after 1969 if they’re eligible for free New Zealand healthcare.
Dr Rainger says it’s especially important for young adults aged around 18–30 to check if they have been vaccinated. “Through no fault of their own, lots of people in this group missed out on their childhood immunisations and may not be fully protected against measles.
“If you think you could have missed out on vaccination it’s never too late to catch up. There are no safety concerns with having an extra dose as well, if you aren’t completely sure if you were vaccinated while growing up.”
Te Whatu Ora has also organised an on-site MMR vaccination clinic at Albany Senior High School for Wednesday 17 May.
“We’re encouraging all staff, students and their whānau to come along to the pop-up clinic if they haven’t had the MMR vaccine or aren’t sure. Those from the school community who aren’t able to make it can get the vaccine from their doctor, practice nurse or usual healthcare provider. People over three years old can also get vaccinated at some local pharmacies.”
To find out more about vaccination providers in your area (including participating pharmacies), visit: www.healthpoint.co.nz. For more information on measles immunisation, or to check if you need to get the MMR vaccine, visit www.immunise.health.nz/measles. You can also find out more by contacting your doctor, practice nurse or hauora provider, or by checking Well Child Tamariki Ora or Plunket books.
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