With the school holidays about to start, parents are being asked to take some extra steps to stop measles spreading in New Zealand or overseas.
Child and Youth Health Advisor Dr Pat Tuohy says parents should check their family’s immunisations are up-to-date before they get on a plane: “This is a good thing to do whenever you travel but it is especially important these school holidays as we have a serious measles outbreak in Auckland and there is a risk that could spread to other parts of New Zealand or the Pacific”
Auckland parents are also being asked not to send their child to school holiday programmes, sports tournaments or other holiday activities if they know their child is unimmunised, unwell and may have been exposed to measles.
“We understand it can be hard to take time off work or change holiday plans at the last minute but it’s really important that we do everything we can to stop measles spreading,” says Dr Tuohy.
“By taking these extra steps parents are helping to protect children who can’t be immunised because they are having cancer treatment or have other conditions that put them at high risk of becoming extremely sick if they do catch this disease.”
Most New Zealand measles outbreaks have started with the return of someone who caught the disease overseas. Our immunisation rates are not high enough to prevent measles spreading – to achieve that we need to ensure 95 per cent of our two-year-olds are fully immunised. Our current immunisation rate is about 90 percent.
If you can’t remember whether your child is fully immunised, please contact your family doctor before you travel. If your child has not had the free measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, consider getting them immunised. About 90 to 95 percent of people are protected from measles once they are fully immunised.
If your child is not immunised and you suspect they might have measles, please keep them at home until they are well, says Dr Tuohy.
Measles is very infectious – an unimmunised child has a more than 90 per cent chance of catching this disease if they come into contact with someone who has it.
It can make children very sick for up to two weeks with symptoms such as a high fever, hacking cough, red eyes, runny nose and a rash. It often starts as an influenza-like illness. The measles rash may not appear for several days. Adults can also get measles.
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