There have now been 77 cases of measles reported in New Zealand so far this year, with most cases linked to outbreaks in Canterbury and the Auckland Region over recent weeks.

In addition to the recent outbreaks in New Zealand, there have been measles outbreaks reported in other countries including the USA, the Philippines and parts of Europe.

In New Zealand, measles outbreaks start when measles is brought into the country following international travel.  The virus then spreads to others in the community because the country’s vaccination rates are not high enough to prevent disease spread.

ESR, which tracks all notifiable diseases on behalf of the Ministry of Health, says that with the school holidays and people travelling around the country and around the world over Easter, there is an increased risk of cases spreading further around the country and of further measles cases being imported.

ESR Public Health Physician, Dr Jill Sherwood, says people should be mindful of the risks of measles.

“They should also think about the importance of immunisation and of the possibility that they could be exposed to measles, especially if they are travelling, attending events, holiday programmes, camps, or have friends and family travelling to visit them,” Dr Sherwood says.  

Measles is a serious and highly infectious disease and immunisation is the best protection to stop the spread of getting measles. 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 aren’t 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.

Further information including current case numbers is available here: link)

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Gael Woods