20 Aug 2019

Urgent measles advice sought after 100 new cases confirmed in past week

6:47 pm on 20 August 2019

The Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has asked her ministry for urgent advice on how to tackle the measles outbreak.

Julie Anne Genter.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Figures out yesterday from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research showed more than 100 new cases of measles have been confirmed in the past week.

That brought the total number of confirmed cases to 651 - the highest since 1997.

There were now four ongoing outbreaks, and Counties Manukau and Waitematā were the two worst affected district health board areas.

Ms Genter said she was waiting on advice from the ministry about a national campaign on immunisation.

"I've asked for urgent advice from the ministry on how we can improve vaccination rates and better respond to the outbreak," she said.

"I believe that the regional public health service is doing everything it can, but clearly there's a need for us to do more."

The Health Minister David Clark said he was concerned about the situation.

"I would really encourage people to get vaccinated. When we have rates across the country that are not as good as they could be, I certainly would be encouraging DHBs to focus on improving immunisation rates," he said.

There were 551 confirm cases in Auckland as of midday Tuesday, with 288 of them in Counties Manukau.

The Counties Manukau District Health Board has created a dedicated ward for children coming in with measles in order to tackle the outbreak better.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Carmel Ellis, acting general manager at the Kidz First Children's Hospital - the children's department in Middlemore - said a section of the medical ward has been cordoned off to treat those with the highly-contagious disease.

"Just with the increase of children coming to the hospital with measles, we decided we needed to [do this]. Those children aren't in contact with anybody else that's on the [medical] ward," she said.

"As family and visitors come in, they're given a mask to ensure that when they go in, they're adhering to some infection control procedures. When they come out, they've got the mask as well to prevent the spread of the infection across to other children."

Ms Ellis said there were 12 beds so far, but there were other rooms in the hospital that can be used if needed as they thought the outbreak was going to continue.

She said Middlemore also tried to isolate adults who came in with measles by using the hospital's negative pressure rooms, but there's more children patients.

"We're working very closely with the ministry advocating for a national catch-up programme. We're waiting to hear back from them," she said.

"We're putting some vaccinators around Middlemore, so that we can provide opportunistic vaccinations. We also working closely with our primary care colleagues, so that they can recall patients if they don't have a documented dose of MMR."

Ms Ellis said they will also work on raising awareness on immunisation.

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