Keeping your family safe in the midst of a measles outbreak

Interesting facts

99% of Pacific children are fully immunised by the time they reach two years of age, with a national average of over 90%.

Two doses of the MMR vaccine are 99% effective in preventing measles. No measles-only vaccine is available in New Zealand.

30% of people infected can develop complications including ear infections with the potential to cause deafness (7%), diarrhoea (6%), pneumonia (6%), seizures and – in one in 1000 cases – swelling of the brain which leads to permanent brain damage about a third of the time.

All Pacific mums and families want the best for their children and family member and want to protect them from harm, this includes diseases and illnesses.  The good news is that many diseases and illnesses can be prevented by getting your child or family member vaccinated/immunised.

Measles has been highlighted in the media lately, particularly in Canterbury and now recently Auckland, with approximately 47 cases confirmed.

So what is measles?

Measles is a very infectious disease, caused by a virus that can have life threatening results.

Measles is very contagious and can spread through contact with infectious droplets from the nose or throat of a person who has measles (For example if someone sneezes or if someone touches items or surfaces which someone with measles has touched). Someone that has measles can easily pass it onto someone in the initial first 2-4 days of symptoms before the rash shows, this is what you call the most contagious stage.  A person who may not have had measles or been vaccinated/immunised against measles can easily get measles and pass it on to at least 20 other people who may have not had measles or have not been vaccinated/immunised against measles.

Who can get measles?

Measles affects both adults and children.

What signs do I need to look for with measles?

It can take up to 10-12 days when someone has been in contact from someone who has measles for the first signs to appear.  Measles often begin with a fever (high temperature), a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (inflammation in the eyes).  These symptoms can last for 2-4 days.  Sometimes you may see small white spots inside the mouth.  These spots are called Koplik spots.  A rash which will begin near the head will appear  2-4 days after the first symptoms.  The rash will slowly spread to the body and then to the arms and legs, with the rash lasting for up to 7-9 days.

How is measles treated?

When you find out you, your child or a family member has measles, you need to go to your nearest doctors.  Try to let them know before you go in so that they know to keep you in a separate room.  Make sure you have good hand washing practices and when sneezing and coughing, cover mouth and remove tissues appropriately. The best care that is recommended includes eating well, taking vitamin A supplements (your doctor will provide more details on where to get this from) and drinking plenty of fluids.  If necessary, you will be referred to the hospital if there are serious complications.

How can I prevent measles?

Contact your doctors and book an appointment to get your child or you vaccinated/immunised.  If you do not have a doctor, contact the nearest doctors in your community and they can enrol you and give you more information on what you need to do.

You will receive 2 injections of the measles vaccines which is delivered at different times. This will provide the most effective protection for yourself, your family and the wider community.  After receiving one of the measles vaccines/injections (MMR)[1], around 95% of people are protected from measles.  After having the second vaccine/injection, more that 99% of people are protected.

Who should NOT get the measles (MMR) vaccine?

Due to the make up of the Measles vaccine (live vaccine), it can cause mild measles, mumps or rubella infections.  It is recommended not giving this vaccine/immunisation to:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • People who have a severe weakness of the immune system
  • People who have a severe allergic response (anaphylaxis) to this vaccine or part of this vaccine before
  • People who have had another live vaccine within the last 4 weeks

How much does the Measles vaccine cost?

The Measles vaccine is FREE for every child in New Zealand.

If you’re aged 18 or over, you can still get FREE immunisation against measles, mumps and rubella.  The vaccine is FREE for everyone born from 1 January 1969 onwards who hasn’t already had two recorded doses.  If you have never been immunised against tetanus, diphtheria or polio, these vaccines are also FREE. 

Where can I get more information about measles?

[1] Measles, mumps, rubella vaccine – Priorix

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