Low immunisation rates could see measles spread

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The low immunisation rate of Northland teenagers could help a measles outbreak spread across the region, health officials fear.

Northland District Health Board has confirmed a sixth case of measles in the region and Northland medical officer of health Clair Mills said the immunisation coverage in Northland teenagers was too low to stop the spread of measles.

The first four cases were related to a person who is believed to have contracted measles while at a regional kapa haka contest in Hamilton last month.

Dr Mills is advising Northlanders to ensure their families are protected from measles, to prevent further spread.

"Historically, vaccination coverage in Northland has been low. This means that only about 60 per cent of our teenagers are fully vaccinated against measles with two Measles.

"Mumps and Rubella (MMR vaccination) doses. Coverage of 95 per cent is needed to prevent community transmission of measles.

"Ninety per cent of our current 2-year-olds have had one MMR, but only 78 per cent of Northland 5-year-olds have had the second dose of MMR, usually given at age four. Older age groups have even lower rates."

She said there has been a good response to the Northland DHB's extra vaccination clinics offered in Kerikeri since last week, with around 300 MMR vaccines given to date and general practices are also seeing more people requesting MMR.

"Measles can be a very serious illness, with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea and, on average, 1 in 10 finding themselves in hospital."

Dr Mills said anyone displaying symptoms of measles should immediately telephone their doctor or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.

- Northland DHB also has a Measles Hotline on 0800 222 030.

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