Measles case confirmed in Canterbury

An infant in the Canterbury region has been confirmed as having measles. It is now more important than ever that everyone ensures they are fully vaccinated against measles.

The infant and their family returned to Christchurch from Auckland where there is a major measles outbreak, with more than 250 confirmed cases to date. It is thought that this is where they contracted the highly infectious disease.

The infant had not yet received their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is routinely given at 15 months, with a second one at four years of age.

Anyone who was in Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department between the following times should remain isolated until Monday 5th August 2019 – unless they are sure that they have had two MMR vaccinations or are over 50 years of age:

  • 10pm on Friday 19th July to 3.45am on Saturday 20th July 2019; or
  • 11.40pm on Sunday 21st July to 1.40am on Monday 22nd July 2019.

Canterbury DHB’s Community and Public Health team has been working to identify all family members and close contacts, determining their immunisation status and offering vaccination if appropriate.

How you can prevent the spread of measles

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey advises that people are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash until five days after the rash appears. So it is possible to transmit the infection before you feel unwell.

People who have been exposed to a case and who are not immune should remain isolated from seven to 14 days after their exposure. “This means staying home from school or work and having no contact with unimmunised people. If you are not sure whether you are immune telephone your GP – they can advise you,” says Dr Humphrey.

People are considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969. Most people in their 30s and 40s only had one measles vaccination and are therefore less likely to be immune until they receive another MMR vaccination. This vaccination is available for free.

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

Measles is a serious 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.

“Because measles is so infectious, it’s important people with symptoms do not visit their general practice team, after-hours clinics or the hospital unless it’s a medical emergency. To limit further exposure to other people, they should instead phone their family doctor/general practice team for advice,” says Dr Humphrey.

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 or 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.

Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (25th July 2019).

Published on Friday, July 26th, 2019, under News
Page last updated: 26/07/2019

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