Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) will be asking schools and early learning services to check staff immunity, with a rapid increase in measles cases in Auckland.
Clinical Director, Dr Julia Peters, says the last fortnight has seen two of the biggest weeks for measles cases this year. “With 227 cases now in Auckland and climbing rapidly, we need everyone aged from 12 months to 50 years to get vaccinated with an MMR if they haven’t had one.
“Increasing immunity in our schools and in our communities is the only thing that is going to slow down this outbreak, by reducing the number of people it can spread to,” Dr Peters said.
With a new term, ARPHS expects a rise in the number of cases involving schoolchildren, meaning non-immune children and teachers exposed to the virus will have to stay at home, as well as the person with measles.
“Nearly 50 early learning services and schools in Auckland have had to deal with measles cases in this outbreak, and some of these have been staff members.
“Measles is one of the most highly infectious viruses, and anyone who has been in a classroom with a case is at risk of developing the illness, if they are not vaccinated or immune. Non immune staff and students have to go into quarantine at home for one to two weeks,” Dr Peters says.
Being in quarantine means staying at home, away from school, work, public places, transport and events like birthday parties and sports games.
ARPHS is contacting schools and early learning services again next week, with further resources to manage measles.
Anyone is considered immune if they have had at least one MMR vaccination, have had measles or a blood test proving immunity, or is over 50 years. ARPHS will ask the school or ECEC to exclude anyone not immune who may have been exposed to the virus in a confined space.
However, parents are being encouraged to get their children vaccinated if over 12 months on time, or to catch up if they have missed out.
Those over 50 are considered immune as the disease was widespread in their childhood. One MMR vaccine dose protects around 95 percent of the population, with a second dose protecting close to 99 percent.
People should watch for the signs and symptoms of measles – fever, cough, runny nose and sore red eyes. After three to five days, a rash appears on the face before moving down the body.