Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has been notified of another eight new measles cases in the last week, taking the number of confirmed cases in Auckland for this year to 55.
Medical Officer of Health Dr William Rainger says there have now been measles cases in every part of the city, but ARPHS has seen more than half of cases come from West Auckland.
“Measles spreads very easily through households if family members are not vaccinated. The early cases were in extended families in West Auckland, so the illness has been passed on for longer in this area, amongst groups more likely to catch it, “Dr Rainger says.
ARPHS has been notified of cases throughout in other parts of West Auckland and the region, with central Auckland the next most affected area.
“In the beginning, we could trace how new cases had been infected, back to previous cases. Now we have sporadic measles cases in different communities.
“We are often asked ‘where is measles in Auckland?’ We can tell people the general location of cases, but this information doesn’t tell people where they might catch measles. People are infectious before they know they have measles, often a week before we are notified.
“Telling people where measles has been will not help people avoid the illness. The only way to protect yourself and your family is to be vaccinated. People carrying the measles virus may now be anywhere in the city.
“We know there is concern amongst parents of babies under 15 months who are too young for their first MMR vaccine. Parents can make sure that everyone at home or who visits is vaccinated, and consider avoid large gatherings and events, especially if these are indoors,” Dr Rainger says.
So far this year 29 people have been hospitalised for measles in Auckland and ARPHS has contacted, or is contacting, more than 2800 people who may have been exposed to the measles virus.
“We are seeing a steady number of new cases with one to two a day, on average. It is reassuring that the rate is not accelerating.
“This suggests that most measles cases and their close contacts who may be contagious are following public health advice, staying at home and not spreading it in the community,” Dr Rainger says.
Adults under 50 years who haven’t had even one MMR dose should also get their free vaccination from their GP.
“This will protect themselves, their family members, workmates and the vulnerable, like babies under 15 months and non-immune pregnant women,“ Dr Rainger says.
Those over 50 are considered immune as the disease was widespread in childhood. One MMR vaccine dose protects around 95 percent of the population, with a second dose protecting close to 99 percent.
“Our advice to people continues to be to watch for the signs and symptoms of measles – fever, cough, runny nose and sore red eyes. After three to five days, a rash appears on the face before moving down the body,” Dr Rainger says.
If you think you or your child has measles – or you’ve been in contact with someone you believe has the disease - it’s important to call your doctor or healthcare centre before turning up so you can be isolated on arrival.