Bay of Plenty health authorities have not asked Tauranga schools to close or exclude students following the recent measles outbreak but warns "measles is in our community".

The Northland District Health Board this week asked schools in the area to consider keeping unimmunised children at home after a low-decile school with more than 200 unvaccinated pupils contacted the board for help.

However, Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Neil de Wet said while there was a "handful" of cases involving school-aged children in the Bay, no schools had been exposed to measles.

There have been 20 confirmed cases of measles in the Bay of Plenty.

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De Wet encouraged people who have not yet been immunised to get the dose of the MMR vaccine that protects against three viral infections - measles, mumps and rubella.

"We estimate about 90 per cent of children in that school age group have had at least one does of MMR vaccine," de Wet said.

"Our main concern is making sure that our immunisation rates are good," he said. "That is the most important way we can eventually stop the spread of measles going up in our community."

Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Neil de Wet. Photo / File
Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Neil de Wet. Photo / File

While there was no general recommendation, de Wet said each case was assessed individually and any unvaccinated person exposed to measles would have to be in quarantine for about seven days.

"Our message is the same for everyone and that message is it is important to make sure you are immune to measles," he said.

Meanwhile, Tauranga principals say they will await guidance from the Ministry of Education on what to do if a pupil has symptoms of measles.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said there had been no cases of measles confirmed at their school but asked that sick children stay home.

Mackintosh said, by law, every child older than 6 years old had to attend school.

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"It is their right to attend school and the only way they can be excluded by law at present is if they are stood down or suspended."

Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said there had not been any confirmed cases at the school, however, the school would inform parents should there be an increased concern.

"Consideration would only be given if the school or community were to have a serious outbreak and/or if we were instructed by MOE or local DHB to do so," he said.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said schools had been contacted to clarify attendance was compulsory for children between aged 6 and 16.

"Therefore schools aren't able to prevent a child from attending school, unless they believe on reasonable grounds that the child has a communicable disease," she said.

"This would require them to believe that the child actually has measles, not that they may be at risk of contracting it."

Schools were also required to follow instructions from their local Medical Officer of Health.

If you think you have measles, call ahead for advice

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.


Confirmed measles cases by district:
Western Bay - 16
Eastern Bay - 0
Rotorua - 0
Taupō - 4


For more information

Toi Te Ora Public Health website: www.toiteora.govt.nz/measles

Immunisation Advisory Centre free phone: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)

Immunisation Advisory Centre website: www.immune.org.nz

Ministry of Health 2019 measles outbreak information: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/measles/2019-measles-outbreak-information

Ministry of Health website: www.health.govt.nz/measles

Don't Assume You're Immune website: www.getimmunised.org.nz