2 Oct 2019

Vaccines limited as measles cases rise in the south

8:12 pm on 2 October 2019

There's been a sharp rise in measles cases in Otago-Southland but the Southern District Health Board says it needs to prioritise the use of the vaccine.

In the past 48 hours 13 new measles cases have been confirmed in Queenstown, two in Wanaka and one in Dunedin.

The Southern DHB says people who had measles and were infectious at the time have visited many Queenstown restaurants, ski fields, parks and shops over the last few weeks.

The DHB's medical officer of health Dr Susan Jack told Checkpoint there are now 57 cases, with 52 in Queenstown, two in Wanaka, two in Dunedin and one in Oamaru.

Measles had been circulating in Queenstown for some time and now the illness had spread to other communities, she said. Most of the confirmed cases involved Queenstown residents, and only a couple were travellers.

There was adequate vaccine to treat children at 15 months and four years and enough for children who were late in receiving their vaccinations.

They were being prioritised and adults would not receive vaccinations until more supplies became available. If people were unvaccinated, they should look out for symptoms and then isolate themselves.

Even if they had been in areas where there had been people with measles, they would not be able to be vaccinated.

"We're hoping that in the next few weeks we'll get more vaccines. ... they're (the Health Ministry) working as hard as they can on that so we're very hopeful we'll be getting more vaccine."

Dr Jack said some people had been isolated and had developed the illness but at least they had not spread it to other people.

Isolation prevented measles spreading to the most vulnerable people including pregnant women, those with cancer and babies under the age of 12 months.

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