With recent cases of measles in the region and students returning to school, the local Medical Officer of Health is urging parents to ensure their children have been immunised against measles.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Neil de Wet said there were 11 reported cases of measles in the Waikato region and two in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes areas in January this year.

"It is an important time to check if you and your whānau are up to date with the measles immunisations," he said.

Measles is highly infectious and is spread from person to person through the air by breathing, sneezing or coughing.

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Just being in the same room as someone with measles can lead to infection if you are not immune. Measles can be serious with around one in 10 people who get measles needing to be hospitalised.

 Dr Neil de Wet.
Dr Neil de Wet.

The vaccine that protects against measles is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

"MMR provides effective protection against measles and is completely free for children and adults. MMR is given in two doses, normally at 15 months and four years of age, as part of the routine childhood immunisations," Dr de Wet said.

People born before 1969 are likely to be immune because measles used to be quite common, but those born from 1969 onwards who are unsure if they have been immunised should check with their doctor.

"Contact your family doctor or practice nurse if you or your child need to be immunised – it's never too late to catch up," Dr de Wet said.

"The first early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, sore red eyes and cough.

After three to five days a red, blotchy rash appears on the face and head and then spreads down the body.

"If you think you or someone in your family may have measles, stay at home and phone your doctor to alert them of your symptoms and allow them to make arrangements to assess you safely and without infecting other people, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice."

For more information go to the Toi Te Ora Public Health website.

- Immunisation Advisory Centre free phone: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).
Immunisation Advisory Centre website: www.immune.org.nz.
Ministry of Health website: www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation.
Don't Assume You're Immune website: www.getimmunised.org.nz.