Three measles cases in Canterbury prompts warning

Tuesday February 15, 2011

​​Canterbury District Health Board’s Community and Public Health Division has been notified of three confirmed cases of measles in Christchurch this month.

The first case became infected after contact with a person who arrived in New Zealand from Sydney in January with measles.  The second case was visiting Christchurch from Melbourne, to attend a wedding. The third case is a secondary school pupil. Two cases were unimmunised and one case had only one MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccination. 

Measles is a serious illness and one out of every ten people who catch it will need to be hospitalised.  The MMR vaccine offers the best protection against measles.  Two doses are required to give maximum protection.  These are usually given at around 15 months and four years.

Currently there are 15 confirmed cases in the Auckland region and two confirmed cases in Wellington.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink, says all cases have been very unwell with their illness, requiring time away from work and school.

“It is a powerful reminder to parents to make sure their children are immunised.  All caregivers, particularly those concerned that their children could be at risk in this outbreak, should check their children’s immunisation record and if they have not been immunised contact their GP and arrange for it to be done,” Ramon Pink said.

The MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccination is an effective vaccine, giving life-long immunity.

Anyone who is concerned that they or a family member may have measles should phone their General Practice team. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • At first, a fever, runny nose and sore red eyes (conjunctivitis),

  • After a few days, a red blotchy rash appears which lasts for up to a week.  The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

  • Spots on the inside of the mouth

It’s important to call your doctor first as measles is easily spread from person to person through the air.  Phoning ahead helps ensure people with measles do not end up sitting in a waiting room, potentially spreading the illness to others.

Measles is now uncommon in New Zealand thanks to vaccination.  There were three outbreaks in 2009/2010, all of which were started by people who were infected overseas. 

Background information

How to protect yourself and your family against measles

Measles can’t easily be treated once you get it, so the only way to prevent the disease is through immunisation. Canterbury DHB encourages parents and families to check that their children’s immunisations are up-to-date. In addition, adults born after 1969 who are unsure whether they are immune should check with their family doctor. By getting immunised, you will not only be protecting yourself or your child, you’ll also be stopping the disease from spreading in our communities.

Who is eligible for free measles immunisation?

Anyone, over the age of one year, who was born after 1969 and who has not had two doses of measles vaccine in the past. Note that measles vaccine is usually first given at 15 months of age, but can sometimes be given at 12 months or earlier.

Call your General Practice team or Healthline 0800 611 116 for health advice

Healthline is a free 24-hour Telephone Health Information Service for all families. The service is staffed by registered nurses who will assess your health needs, and give information and advice to help you decide on the best level of care.

Healthline uses Language Line Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. When you call Healthline during these hours, the nurse or call handler can usually arrange for an interpreter. Outside these hours, Healthline uses other interpreting services as far as possible. It is not always possible to locate an interpreter in a particular language at short notice.​

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2014