Measles is a highly infectious notifiable disease with serious complications between late December 2013 and 24 February 2014, 47 case of measles have been confirmed, eight of which have been hospitalised. Most of these cases have occurred in unimmunised people.
Measles affects children and adults. It is important to stop the spread of measles by keeping infected children and staff at home.
The best protection against measles is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is free for all children. MMR vaccinations are scheduled at 15 months and 4 years.
MMR vaccination is also free for susceptible adults born after 1 January 1969 who have not received two doses of a measles containing vaccine.
Prior to 1969, New Zealand did not have a national measles immunisation programme and as measles is so infectious, it is very likely that most people born before 1969 were exposed to the virus and developed immunity.
General information and updates on the measles situation are available on the Ministry of Health website.
What schools and early childhood education centres can do
Inform staff about the measles situation. Measles is a serious, notifiable disease, and immunisation is the best way to get protected.
Update immunisation registers. These must be maintained under the Health (Immunisation) Regulations 1995. This allows unimmunised children who have been in close contact with someone with measles to be quickly identified and help reduce the risk of measles spreading.
Include information on measles in newsletters to parents and caregivers asking them to check that immunisations are up-to-date (including their own). Immunisation is free. Once immunised, 90 to 95 per cent of people are protected from measles.
What to do if measles occurs in early childhood education services (ECE) and schools
Medical practitioners are required to notify the local Medical Officer of Health of any suspected cases of measles. Public health or primary health care staff will be able to give you information and advice (this may include directing you to the local public health service webpage).
A person with measles is infectious from 5 days before to 5 days after the appearance of the rash and should stay away from ECE services, and follow the advice of the local Medical Officer of Health.
Children and students, who are not immunised against measles, or have no immunity to measles, who have been close contacts of a measles case during the infectious stages must be excluded from school or ECE service for 14 days from their last contact. This exclusion also applies to students taking part in sporting events.
Teachers who are not immunised against measles, or have no immunity to measles, who have been close contacts of a measles case during the infectious stages should be excluded from school or ECE service for 14 days from their last contact. This exclusion also applies to students taking part in sporting events.
You can get more information on the Ministry of Health website.
You can also call the Immunisation Advisory Centre toll-free line 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) or visit the IMAC website.
If you would like to discuss these issues, please contact your local public health service.
Dr Darren Hunt
Director of Public Health
Ministry of Health