5 Sep 2019

US warns its citizens of New Zealand measles threat

6:29 pm on 5 September 2019

The American government is warning its citizens about New Zealand's measles outbreak, as the number of cases tops 1000.

Pediatrician makes vaccination to small boy

Photo: 123rf.com

More than 50 cases in Auckland have been confirmed in the past 24 hours - the total in the region now at 877.

Cases across the country are continuing to increase too, with seven confirmed in Queenstown.

The US Centre for Disease Control is telling Americans to get vaccinated before heading to New Zealand, and those already living here have been told the same.

Vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said the situation was deeply concerning.

"We're now at a point where we've got about half the number of cases as we had in the 1997 epidemic, which was our last significant measles event."

Dr Petousis-Harris said it's sad it had taken an outbreak for people to get vaccinated.

"We know that measles can be fatal and people are working pretty hard at keeping some people alive."

Manurewa's Rowandale School principal Karl Vasau said the school had a big measles scare a few weeks ago.

At the time, about 25 staff were stuck at home in quarantine.

He said the school's situation had improved significantly, but some families were still choosing to keep their children at home out of fear they would infect younger siblings.

It took a scare for parents to get their children vaccinated, he said.

"We've seen a lot of parents engage in some informed decision-making, so our parents have become educated on the effects of measles, and how to prevent, and how to monitor, and how to quarantine them if needed. For us at Rowandale School, we're in a much better place."

Nikki Turner from the University of Auckland described the outbreak as heartbreaking but predictable.

The most important thing now was for children and young people to get immunised, she said.

"You give a dose from a year of age and at least one dose is highly likely to give you a strong amount of protection."

The Ministry of Health is advising anyone with early symptoms of measles, such as a fever, cough or runny nose, to avoid Auckland.

While Auckland Regional Public Health is urging people who think they may have measles to phone before visiting their doctor.

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