New Zealand prepares for major measles outbreak with free vaccinations

Laverne Higgins
March 14, 2019

An outbreak of measles in New Zealand's South Island has continued to spread as health authorities order emergency supplies of vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 206 measles cases were confirmed in the United States in the first two months of this year, the highest year-to-date number going back more than a quarter-century.

"The number of confirmed cases.is likely to rise further over the coming days and weeks", Canterbury's District Health Board said.

The DHB says it's highly infectious - and anyone unvaccinated who's within two metres of someone with measles has a 90 percent chance of catching it. "People between the ages of 29 and 50 can expect to get a measles vaccine from their general practice in a week or two".

A total of 18,000 extra doses of the MMR vaccine are being transported to Canterbury over the next 24 hours.

One in 10 people who get measles will need treatment in hospital, and up to 30 per cent will develop complications - usually children under five and adults over the age of 20.

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More potential cases are now being investigated. Before scientists developed the vaccine, between 3 and 4 million people caught measles and 500 died from it each year in the USA, according to the agency.

According to the reports, the first case was reported in Canterbury in February.

For children who are too young to have had both MMRs or who cannot be immunised for other reasons, the best way to protect them is to ensure everyone around them has been vaccinated - if you can't get it, you can't pass it on.

Colvin said measles is "a very contagious, vaccine-preventable disease".

Health officials in Jefferson County are trying to find people who may have come in contact with a person there who has caught measles.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat mucus of an infected person. That move followed congressional testimony from Ethan Lindenberger, a high school senior who described how his mother got anti-vaccine information nearly exclusively from Facebook.

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