30 Aug 2019

Measles outbreak: 759 cases now confirmed in Auckland

3:08 pm on 30 August 2019

There are now 759 confirmed cases of measles in Auckland, up 28 since yesterday.

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Photo: 123rf.com

Auckland is at the centre of the outbreak with hundreds more cases than the rest of the country combined.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service said the number was 143 higher than this time last week.

It was warning Auckland schools to take serious precautions as thousands of students prepare to travel around the country for Winter Tournament Week.

There are 79 secondary sports championships involving more than 20,000 students due to kick off across New Zealand from Monday.

Anyone with symptoms of measles, including a cough or runny nose, should not be included in teams, it said, and schools should request proof of vaccination for any student - and parents aged under 50 - who are travelling.

It said though the sports tournaments were important, that needed to be balanced with the risk of spreading measles among students or outside of Auckland.

NZ Secondary School Sports Council chief executive Garry Carnachan said some schools were considering withdrawing teams.

He said the organisation had been keeping in close touch with health authorities and has passed on their advice - including asking for proof of vaccination from travelling children and parents under 50, and excluding children with any measles symptoms, including running noses and coughs - to every school in the country.

"We haven't had any tell us yet that they're pulling out," he said. "We have discussed with a number of schools who are saying they have a number of non-immunised students who might make their team non-viable and so they'll be considering their positions individually around that.

Meanwhile, Counties Manukau District Health Board is rolling out a measles vaccination programme for 34 high schools.

Carmel Ellis from the DHB said 25 nurses were being trained to carry out jabs at schools as well as alternative education and teen parent units.

Nurses would be going into Manurewa High School next Tuesday to vaccinate students and staff after 13 confirmed cases there, she said.

There would also be drop-in centres for vaccinations tomorrow at the Free Church of Tonga in Mangere and in the Clendon Shopping Centre in Manurewa.

However, the National Party wants to see more resources deployed to tackle the outbreak.

The government has deployed extra staff in South Auckland to vaccinate people in places like malls, schools and churches.

National MP Shane Reti.

Shane Reti Photo: Supplied / National Party

National's associate health spokesperson, Shane Reti, said it was a good step.

"I'm pleased that we're starting to take the vaccination service out to the people. I think it can go further so I'd like to see more resources being applied to this. It's not clear to me that we've reached the peak in this outbreak at this point."

South Island measles

At the opposite end of the country, four people have been diagnosed with measles in the Southern District so far this year.

The latest two measles cases have been confirmed in Queenstown this month.

The Southern District Health Board said its staff were investigating who may have had contact with the people while they were infectious.

Last year, there were eight confirmed measles cases in the Southern District.

Canterbury District Health Board said a total 41 measles cases had been confirmed in the region this year, with at least two since the region's measles outbreak was declared officially over in May.

The New Zealand Director of Public Health, Caroline McElnay, said the country may have lost herd immunity.

That was when enough people were vaccinated to provide a degree of protection to those who were not.

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