WDHB issues measles warning

1 June 2016
New Zealand’s current measles outbreak has prompted a warning to Whanganui parents and caregivers to make sure their children are immunised against the disease. 
Aware there are measles cases in nearby Horowhenua, Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) head paediatrician David Montgomery wants parents to understand that not only is measles one of the most infectious diseases in the world but it also a very serious illness.
“In 90 percent of cases, measles causes high fevers, misery, cough, red eyes, and rashes, and lasts about a week,” Dr Montgomery says.
“In 10 percent of cases it is more serious. Measles frequently causes pneumonia, croup, diarrhoea, and ear infections.  For one-in-1000 cases, measles causes encephalitis (brain inflammation) resulting in convulsions, paralysis, permanent brain damage, or death.” 
Dr Montgomery says in large developed countries, between one and three children out of every 1000 with measles will die.  The mortality rate is much higher in children who also have other illnesses, poor immune systems, or are malnourished.
“Measles can be prevented by immunisation with routine measles immunisation usually given at 15 months and at four years of age,” Dr Montgomery says.
“Children and adults who are exposed to measles are at high risk of becoming ill if they are not immune to the disease. Immunity can be assumed if the person has had at least two doses of MMR vaccine, or if a blood test has shown that they are immune to measles. 
“If anyone is exposed to measles, they should discuss their situation with a health professional as soon as possible.  They may require immediate measles vaccination, or they may need hospital treatment with immunoglobulin in certain circumstances.” 
Dr Montgomery says children under 15 months old, pregnant women who have not been immunised, and anyone who has low immunity, are particularly vulnerable if exposed to measles. 
He strongly advises parents to make sure that all immunisations are given on time, and to seek medical advice immediately if their child is exposed to measles and has not yet had two doses of MMR vaccine.