Measles reach Taranaki

JARED SMITH
Last updated 05:00 22/10/2011

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Taranaki has recorded its first confirmed case of measles in 13 years, as outbreaks of the disease sweep the North Island.

The Taranaki District Health Board confirmed the laboratory-tested case in a New Plymouth person yesterday.

It said the Taranaki Public Health Unit had acted to minimise the risk of further spread after the person was diagnosed but would not release the person's age or sex.

It was the first case confirmed by laboratory tests since 1998, a spokeswoman said.

Dr Rob Weir, acting medical officer of health, said the person's close contacts who had not previously been vaccinated or had not had measles had been advised to stay home for two weeks.

"Those who are not fully immunised for their age group have been advised to complete their immunisations."

The past six months saw a measles outbreak in Auckland, with 24 new cases diagnosed at the start of October, taking the total number of infections to more than 200.

In August Dr Greg Simmons, TDHB's medical officer of health, said English measles immunisation was vitally important after outbreaks in Auckland, Hawke's Bay and the Waikato. The vast majority who caught it were not immunised, he said.

As of July, 90 per cent of two-year-olds in the region were fully immunised.

Dr Weir said measles is very infectious, spreading through the air from breathing, coughing, sneezing, and contact.

"The disease is contagious from just before symptoms begin until about four days after onset of the rash.

"The illness usually starts between 10 and 14 days after contact with the measles virus."

For every 1000 cases of measles, approximately 100 will need hospital treatment, 100 will get an ear infection and 50 will get pneumonia, he said.

Dr Weir said given the significant number of cases elsewhere, a Taranaki case was not a "total surprise".

"As at October 20 there had been 358 cases in New Zealand this year. More local cases were possible, he said.

" I would urge people to ensure they are fully immunised as this is the best way for people to protect themselves against measles and [it] is free to those who need it."

If you think you might have measles contact your doctor or Healthline on 0800 611116.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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