Auckland Regional Public Health Service is reminding people to check they’re immune to measles before travelling this holiday season.
Medical Officer of Health Dr Maria Poynter says the number of confirmed measles cases in Auckland has slowed significantly in the past two months, but there are still cases occurring.
“Between December 4 and December 11 there were ten confirmed measles cases in the region,” Dr Poynter says. “And measles is still affecting people in other parts of New Zealand and neighbouring countries like Samoa.”
The highly infectious virus therefore still poses a risk to people who are not immune to the illness.
Dr Poynter says people should check their health records, or Plunket/Well Child Tamariki Ora Health Book, to be sure they’ve had a measles vaccination.
“There have been a number of people with measles this year who thought they had been immunised against the virus in the past, but in fact hadn’t, she says.
“Our advice to people travelling over the summer holidays, especially to Samoa or one of the other Pacific Islands, is to double-check that you’re vaccinated. If you’re not able to prove this, see your family doctor to get an MMR vaccination at least two weeks before you leave. That will give your body time to build your immunity before you reach your destination,” she says. “It’s a good idea to take proof of your vaccination status with you when you travel too.”
Dr Poynter says it’s also important to consider vulnerable family members, such as very young babies, non-immune pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems, when getting together for gatherings with family and friends over the festive period.
“In Auckland, babies can receive their first, free MMR vaccination from the age of six months, but it’s also important that older children and adults up to 50 years old who aren’t immune get the vaccine. This will help protect the vulnerable people in their families, whānau and wider communities.”
Anyone who is not immune and is travelling to New Zealand from measles-affected countries like Samoa shouldn’t attend public gatherings or places with sick or very young people (like day care centres and hospitals) for two weeks after departing for New Zealand.
And Dr Poynter says it’s still important to stay vigilant for the signs of measles – fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes, rash (starting on the head or neck before spreading to the rest of the body).
“If you are in New Zealand, experience any of these symptoms and suspect measles, call the free Healthline number – 0800 611 116 - for advice on what to do.”
Further information and advice about measles and the MMR vaccine is available on the Auckland Regional Public Health Service website.