Measles is a highly contagious disease that can be life threatening. Measles is caused by a virus and is easily preventable with immunisation. Measles is present in a number of countries overseas and occasionally causes outbreaks in New Zealand.
Getting immunised is the best way to protect you, your whānau and community from catching and spreading measles.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can be serious.
It is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing. Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune.
Who is at risk of measles infection?
People are at risk of getting measles if they are not immune to measles. People who are regarded as not immune to measles are:
People born after 1 January 1969 who have not had two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Infants under the age of 12 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine at 12 months old. They are susceptible and rely on everyone else to be immune so that measles does not spread to them.
Infants over 15 months who have not received their second dose of MMR.
What should you do?
Ensure you, children and whānau are up to date with your immunisations.
If you are not immune it is important to be aware of the symptoms of measles. The early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough. After 3 to 5 days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.
The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine is free and very effective in preventing measles. After just one dose of MMR vaccine about 95% of people will be protected from measles, and 99% of people who have had two MMR doses will be protected from measles. Children are scheduled to receive their MMR doses at 12 months and 15 months of age.
People born before 1 January 1969 are considered to be immune because virtually everyone got measles prior to the measles immunisations being introduced that year, and so this older age group does not need to have the measles immunisations.
Symptoms of measles
The first early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough, followed a few days later by a rash usually starting on the face before moving down the body.
If you develop symptoms of measles
Stay at home and away from public places (such as sports events, gatherings, parties, school, work, child care, shopping centres, public transport and so on).
See your doctor as soon as possible so a diagnosis can be confirmed. However, phone the surgery ahead to alert them of your symptoms and to allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people.
If you are unable to visit your GP phone Healthline on 0800 611 116.
For further information call on 0800 221 555 and ask to speak to the on call Health Protection Officer or email firstname.lastname@example.org