Government to unveil new plans to avoid another measles outbreak

2:52 pm on 3 February 2020

New measures to avoid a repeat of the 2019 measles outbreak are set to be unveiled by the government.

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Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter will announce beefed up plans to combat the potentially deadly virus in the coming weeks.

South Auckland was hit particularly hard by the outbreak, the country's worst in two decades.

Since 1 January 2019, 1157 people living within Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) boundaries had contracted measles.

The number of new cases has dwindled since the start of 2020, with just four confirmed.

Genter said more money was needed to pay for additional vaccines, hospital costs and planning "to ensure this doesn't happen again".

"The measles outbreak in Auckland last year was hard on families, communities, and our health system," the Green Party MP said.

"I will announce in the next few weeks how this government will strengthen and future proof our health system."

Genter first indicated more money for public health bodies in response to questions from the Local Democracy Reporting service about resourcing of the sector.

A poster at a medical centre warns against the spread of measles.

A poster at a medical centre warns against the spread of measles. Photo: RNZ / Rob Dixon

Asked what the government was doing to ensure the likes of Auckland Regional Public Health (ARPHS) and CMDHB were geared up to contain outbreaks of the magnitude seen in Auckland, Genter said more money would be pumped into the services.

It remained unclear whether the funding would go towards district health boards or bodies like ARPHS, but the minister indicated it would be additional to allocations in Budget 2019.

In November, Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said the epidemic was "not surprising" given "increased transmission from international sources, ease of travel and a population with recognised immunity gaps".

Two outbreaks in Auckland "multiplied and overwhelmed" public health services' ability to control the spread, Dr Turner wrote in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Auckland Medical Officer of Health Maria Poynter said outbreaks could outstrip the number of nurses and doctors available.

"This happens when there is widespread community transmission of the virus, and as a result, health services have to move to a more sustainable and targeted approach," Dr Poynter said.

"It is increased immunisation through an active national approach that will ensure our community is protected against this serious disease."

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