Rash of measles sparks hunt for victims

NATALIE AKOORIE
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2011

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Health authorities monitoring a Te Awamutu measles outbreak are using social media to track teens who might have been exposed.

And, if the virus gets out of control, a second dose of an immunisation against the virus could be brought forward,

Eight teenagers were struck down with measles on Thursday, and by last night there were 11 suspected cases.

Health authorities suspected none of the teens, some of whom attend Te Awamutu College, were immunised against the illness, which kills one in 1000.

Waikato District Health Board spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill said the DHB had turned to Facebook and other social networking sites to track down those who might have had contact with Te Awamutu College students in the last week of school.

"We would text every teen in the Waikato if we could."

Mrs Gill said the 11 people suspected of having measles were recovering in their homes. One of them had been in Waikato Hospital but was discharged today.

Yesterday the DHB sent a letter to all schools and early childhood centres in the Waipa district to warnabout the outbreak.

Medical officer of health Dr Dell Hood said if the outbreak became widespread and started affecting babies and young children the DHB would look at bringing forward the timing of a second dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

While it was too early in the outbreak to tell how widespread it would become, Dr Hood said the teenagers were likely to have come into contact with more people because of the school holidays.

"We know that it started ... in the last week of the term, but of course the children have all been on holiday since then and their patterns of movement have changed dramatically.

She said the worst case scenario was that a community-wide outbreak may already be "incubating" out there.

Measles was so infectious it could be caught by simply standing next to someone in a queue and it would affect people who weren't immunised. Symptoms included a fever, cough, sore eyes and feeling unwell. A rash appears three to five days after the first symptoms.

Complications in babies included pneumonia, ear infections and stomach bugs.

For now though the message remained clear; get immunised or, if not immunised and in contact with the virus, stay at home for two weeks.

Anyone who thinks they or their child may have measles should see their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

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- Waikato Times

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