Expert advice on measles and what to do about vaccinations

SHARE

What you need to know about measles.

Answers supplied by Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Greg Simmons.

Q People might think the outbreak is in Queenstown and Auckland, not here, and become complacent. What is the SDHB’s advice to people across Central Otago?

While there are no confirmed cases in Central Otago, unvaccinated people need to be especially aware of measles symptoms and the need for isolation if they think they have become sick. Measles is highly contagious and new cases could occur in new areas at any time.

It usually takes 10-12 days from exposure to the first symptom.

The illness begins with fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (red eyes), which lasts for 2-4 days.

It may be possible to see small white spots (Koplik spots) inside the mouth.

A rash appears 2-4 days after the first symptoms, beginning at the hairline and gradually spreading down the body to the trunk, arms and legs. The rash lasts for up to one week.

Q Can you please provide some comment on how easily it spreads?

Measles is highly contagious.

On average a measles case is likely to infect 15 other people.

The current measles outbreak in Queenstown started with one visitor.

It is spread through the air by infected droplets or by direct contact with secretions from the nose or throat of infected persons, for example by touching contaminated items or surfaces.

It can survive for up to two hours in the air.

A person with measles is most contagious from when symptoms start until three to four days after the rash appears.

Anyone who has not received at least one dose of a measles-containing vaccine or who has not already had the disease is at risk of catching measles.

Q There appears to be some confusion over whether people think they are vaccinated. Some are saying they are covered, they got their MMR in their younger years, and then others say you need a booster. Can you please explain?

Two MMR vaccinations are required to be considered fully vaccinated.

It is recommended that people who have only had one MMR (as was the schedule in the 1980s) get a second vaccination.

During outbreaks vaccine demand can mean children are prioritised over adults who have already had one MMR.

Q Where can people go to for advice, instead of taking it from someone who is not qualified to provide it?

The Ministry of Health website is the best place for up-to-date measles information:

www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles

The Immunisation Advisory Centre has an MMR fact sheet on its website:

www.immune.org.nz/sites/default/files/resources/Written%20Resources/AdministrationMMRQA20190912V01Final.pdf

Q What is the best thing for people to do if they are unsure? Is there a way their GP can test them to see if they have had their MMR vaccinations and if so, that they are still covered?

There is a blood test that can done to confirm immunity to measles but [if] people are unsure of their vaccination status, there is no harm in getting an extra MMR vaccination.

(Again, during outbreaks vaccine demand can mean that children are prioritised over adults who have already had one MMR – this is the case now in many parts of New Zealand)