Schools on defence as measles spreading

AMANDA PARKINSON AND GEOFF LEWIS
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014

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Hamilton's measles outbreak is now spreading into the wider community with 38 confirmed cases across a range of age groups.

Yesterday, Waikato District Health Board Population Health Service confirmed a case at Hamilton Girls' High and expected more would surface in coming days.

The Population Health Service had received results from Christchurch that confirmed 38 cases of measles from the host site, Fraser High School, and was investigating more than 20 other suspected cases.

The outbreak that began at Fraser High School has affected staff and students, forcing the school to operate on limit resources and reduce student attendance.

The school is cycling between teaching the junior cohort one day and seniors the next, a measure expected to continue until early next week.

Hamilton Girls' High School has sent a letter from Population Health to all parents advising them of the case at that school and telling those who have not had two documented doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to stay at home in quarantine until further notice.

The same precautions were being taken at Fraser High School.

Waikato District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Anita Bell urged parents to check their child's immunisation status.

"Information has been circulated regarding the increase in cases to all schools, early child care centres and general practice."

Fraser, one of the two largest secondary schools on Hamilton's west side, draws students from more than a dozen schools including full primaries, a first junior high school and an intermediate.

Hamilton Girls' High School has made it mandatory that students who can not prove they have received the full course of MMR vaccinations stay away until June 25.

Principals have reported limited numbers of students with the highly contagious disease - but are hoping for the best while preparing for the worst and are keen for the coming holidays to provide a "fire break".

Vaughan Franklin, who heads Te Rapa School, a full primary, said an advisory to parents had gone out this week following advice from Bell.

Franklin said late last week his school had no reported cases, but the first time one turned up it would create a "logistical nightmare".

The school kept records of which children had been vaccinated and those who hadn't.

"We will double-check all our information. If we had a child develop measles it would have to be quarantined and anyone who is not vaccinated will have to stay at home. That includes staff and kids.

"It is the parents' choice to have their children vaccinated but the impact can be hugely disruptive and impact on the day-to-day running of the school and be demanding of the DHB's resources," he said.

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Frankton Primary principal Judy Dixon reported two children away on Friday because they had older siblings with the disease at Fraser. Dixon said ultimately if children were vaccinated or not was a decision up to their parents.

Aberdeen acting principal Lesley Lomas said four or five children with siblings at Fraser were away for the 14-day period prescribed by the Waikato DHB. Lomas said when children were enrolled, the Education Ministry required parents to show the school proof that they have been immunised.

"It is a hugely contagious disease. We have had a couple of our staff get blood tests to make sure they still carry an immunity." 

- Waikato Times

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