Rise in measles cases prompts WDHB warning

An upsurge in measles cases nationally has prompted the Whanganui District Health Board to urge families to check that their immunisations are up-to-date and to see their doctor immediately if they or a family member have not been immunised.
Public health immunisation coordinator Karen Howard says the latest figures up to 15 December, show 568 cases nationwide have been recorded this year, with close to four new confirmed or suspected cases being reported daily.
“Almost 80 percent of these cases are in the Auckland region, so for anyone travelling to Auckland or the upper North Island over the holiday period it’s particularly important their immunisations are up to date,” Ms Howard says.
“Having said that, Auckland residents will, also, be travelling extensively over summer so the risk of the disease spreading will be high no matter where you are in the country.”
“One in three people with measles develop complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and, in rare cases, brain damage – all of which can lead to death.
“We know immunisation is the best way for people to protect themselves and others from the disease and it’s not just babies and young children who can get measles. Older children, teenagers and adults who are not fully immunised are also at risk.”
Ms Howard says adults aged 42 years and over are considered lower risk because, having been born before the measles vaccine became available in 1969, they were probably exposed to measles as a child.
However, anyone with a weakened immune system, people who are receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment, or people taking high-dose steroid medications, are at higher risk of severe measles infection.
Pregnant women who are not immunised and who get measles are at risk of miscarriage, still birth and low birth weights.
Ms Howard says while non-immune pregnant women should not be immunised during pregnancy, it’s very important that their family and close contacts are immunised to protect the pregnant mother and unborn baby.
“Being immunised not only protects you or your child but it also helps stop the disease from spreading,” Ms Howard says.
Free health advice from a registered nurse is available 24 hours a day from Healthline on 0800 611 116.
For more general information about immunisation please call the Immunisation Advisory
Centre’s free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863), go to the Ministry of Health’s website www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation or the Immunisation Advisory Centre website www.immune.org.nz.
For more information about measles, go to the Ministry of Health’s website at www.moh.govt.nz/measles.