Measles is present in a number of countries overseas and occasionally causes outbreaks in New Zealand.
Measles is a highly infectious disease that affects both adults and children. Measles is more serious than many people realise. Symptoms include fever, cough, red eyes and a runny nose, followed by a rash which tends to start on the face, before moving over the head and down the body. The rash develops about 3 days after the other symptoms start. Complications can include middle ear infections, pneumonia, and, more rarely, encephalitis or brain inflammation.
The best protection against measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is free for all children. MMR vaccinations are scheduled at 12 months and 15 months.
MMR vaccination is also free for susceptible adults born after 1 January 1969 who have not received two doses of a measles containing vaccine.
What schools can do
Prevent measles spreading by:
Updating immunisation registers
Early Childhood Centres and Primary Schools must maintain their immunisation registers under the Health (Immunisation) Regulations 1995. This allows unimmunised children who have been in contact with someone with measles to be identified quickly to help reduce the risk of further spread. For more information view the Immunisation Guidelines for Early Childhood Services and and Primary Schools.
Providing advice in your newsletter
Ask parents and caregivers to check that their child's/children's immunisations are up-to-date. Immunisation is free. Immunisation given on time is the best way to prevent measles. Two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is 99% effective in preventing measles. The first dose of MMR vaccine is usually given at 12 months of age and the second dose at 15 months of age. Students who have no proven immunity to measles (through immunisation or previous exposure) may be sent home for two weeks if there is a measles outbreak in their class.
Parents and staff should also make sure that they are immune to measles. Anyone who has had measles that was confirmed by a doctor is likely to be immune, and most people born before 1969 will be immune because measles used to be quite common. Everyone else should check that they are up to date with their vaccinations. It is never too late to catch up.
What to do if measles occurs in early childhood education services (ECE) and schools
Once a notification of measles is received by the local public health service, the early childhood service or school the child attends will be contacted urgently by public health staff who will provide information and advice to the manager or principal.
A student or teacher with measles must stay away from school or ECE while infectious. Unimmunised children/students, or those with no immunity to measles, who have been close contacts of a measles case during the infectious stages will be excluded from school or ECE service from 7 days after their first contact until 14 days after their last contact. This exclusion also applies to students taking part in sporting events.