WDHB urges parents to immunise their children in wake of recent measles outbreak

16 June 2014
As news spreads of further measles outbreaks in Auckland and Waikato, the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) is urging parents and caregivers to ensure their children’s immunisations are up-to-date. WDHB head of paediatrics David Montgomery says measles is not a minor childhood illness.
“Measles is a highly contagious and potentially life-threatening infection,” Dr Montgomery says. “Children with measles usually have severe symptoms. One child in every 1000 who contract measles in Western countries will die from the infection while others will be left with permanent disabilities such as brain damage, deafness, blindness or chronic lung disease.
“Because adults and children with weakened immune systems, children under 15 months, and pregnant women not immunised against measles are particularly vulnerable to fatal complications anyone in these vulnerable groups who has contact with a measles case should see their doctor immediately. They are likely to require hospital treatment.”
Dr Montgomery says while he was pleased the Whanganui region managed to achieve the 90 percent Increased Immunisation target in the previous quarter (91% of eligible children in the Whanganui district were immunised), health staff were concerned to see Whanganui’s immunisation levels for eight-month-olds drop by two percent.
Dr Montgomery says the most recent measles outbreak in the north of the country is a timely reminder to all parents to make sure they have their child or children immunised and to understand that the six-week vaccinations must be followed up with the vaccinations given at three, five and 15 months.
The Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination is also topped up when a child reaches the age of four. If parents have questions about immunisation they should discuss these with their GP, or the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) on 0800 IMMUNE or see their website www.immune.org.nz. Dr Montgomery says immunisation of children against measles is not only safe and effective but it is free for all New Zealand children.