Health officials are urging Northlanders to make sure they are protected against measles amid fears an outbreak hitting other parts of the country could spread north.
Medical Officer of Health at Northland District Health Board Clair Mills said 238 cases of measles have been reported this year so far from Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and Wellington, with over 100 cases from a recent outbreak in a high school in Hamilton.
Measles is easily transmitted and with a Hawke's Bay measles sufferer recently visited by people living in Northland Dr Mills said it is probably only a matter of time before measles spreads north, especially with school holidays approaching.
She said measles was spread by tiny droplets in the air and is very infectious, easily spreading to those nearby. The first symptoms - fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes - can be mistaken for a cold, with the rash (appearing on the face and neck and spreading over the body) three to five days later.
Dr Mills is urging people to ensure their measles vaccinations are up-to-date, saying immunisation is the best protection from this potentially serious disease.
"Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea," she said.
"While one in 10 (cases) on average requires hospitalisation, admission rates in the Hamilton outbreak have been higher. This is an avoidable disease where there is an effective vaccine. Immunisation protects not only the individual, but also stops the spread of this disease within our communities.
"Please double-check that your child is not at risk. There is a window of opportunity now while no cases have yet been reported in Northland to catch up on any missed vaccinations. Vaccination is a much better option than having a very sick child at home for a couple of weeks."
Unimmunised people who have had contact with a person with measles, will normally be advised to stay at home and away from all public places, school or work for 14 days after their contact.
Vaccines are free and are available through your GP or practice nurse.
Anyone displaying symptoms of measles should immediately telephone their doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.