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Epidemic warning as measles outbreak spreads

Published: 10:45AM Thursday September 22, 2011 Source: ONE News

Health authorities in Auckland are urging people to check whether they are immunised as they get closer to declaring a measles epidemic.

Dozens of people have been quarantined after coming in contact with the disease.

With 45 new cases in Auckland in the last week the total now stands at 167, with 24 requiring hospitalisation

"I'm very concerned...if we see these sorts of numbers and even further increases over the next few weeks, then I'm sure the ministry would be thinking seriously about whether to declare it an epidemic," Dr Richard Hoskings from Auckland Regional Public Health said.

"Immunisation is the most important way to prevent measles. People who haven't been immunised are at risk of catching the disease."

Some passengers have been exposed to the disease on recent domestic flights and Hoskins is warning people on the flights to check their immune status and if in doubt call their GP.

The flights include:

  • Air New Zealand NZ419 from Auckland to Wellington on Friday, September 9 at 12:30pm
  • Air New Zealand NZ428 from Wellington to Auckland on Saturday, September 17 at 2:30pm
  • Jetstar JQ263 from Auckland to Wellington on Monday, September 12 at 6:40am
  • Air New Zealand NZ464 from Wellington to Auckland on Monday, September 12 at 5.30pm
  • Jetstar JQ244 from Christchurch to Auckland on Sunday, September 18 at 7.10am

Once a person becomes exposed to measles, it typically takes 10 to 12 days for symptoms to develop. The symptoms include a cough, runny nose, fever, sore eyes, and a raised red rash that starts on the face.

The disease travels easily through the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Medical centres are bracing for an influx of people wanting the fully funded MMR vaccine. There are around 30,000 doses in the country and the Ministry of Health is ordering more.

Authorities are also considering bringing the immunisation age for infants forward from 15 months to 12.

Click here for more information about measles.