Measles cases linked to single importation.


ESR scientists say the majority of cases of measles in Auckland, Northland and Bay of Plenty are likely to have originated from one initial case in Auckland. 

ESR, which tracks all notifiable diseases on behalf of the Ministry of Health, reports there are now 142 cases of measles reported in New Zealand so far this year.

Public Health Physician Dr Shirley Crawshaw says the genotyping of measles strains indicate that since April 2019 the hot spots have largely been in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, with occasional cases elsewhere.

Testing on the strains affecting people show that the many of the cases from the Bay of Plenty and the cases from Northland are likely to have originated in Auckland. ESR surveillance shows there is now a total of 59 cases reported in the Auckland region with another 21 cases in the Bay of Plenty for 2019.

Dr Shirley Crawshaw says the link between measles cases reinforces the need for vaccination and demonstrates the danger of a single infectious case in an inadequately vaccinated population.

“We still have lower coverage than is ideal in older teenagers and younger adults, stretching right up to the age group who we would consider immune.  If enough susceptible people come in contact with an infected person, then it will continue to spread.”

Dr Shirley Crawshaw says the current outbreak has already exceeded the number of cases in 2016 has the potential to overtake the 2014 outbreak, which infected 280 people and resulted in 61 hospitalisations. 

She says that says there is always a risk importation of disease will lead to outbreaks and a return to a situation where measles could become endemic again.

“Our surveillance shows that outbreaks are more likely to occur where you’ve got high population levels and low vaccination rates.”

Two years ago New Zealand won praise for eliminating endemic measles – meaning the virus was longer circulating here.

For the best protection, people need to have two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations. The MMR is available from your family practice and you should ask if you are eligible for a free vaccination.

Anyone who suspects they may have measles should avoid contact with other people, especially those who are not fully immunised, and should phone their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice. It is important to call first because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others in the waiting room. 

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