Two premier netball teams have been put into isolation after they were exposed to a player who had measles during a match and became seriously ill.
They are among 36 people in home isolation, some of them until June 5, after coming in contact with the player during a match between two Northland teams on May 17. At least one has flu-like symptoms associated with the onset of measles and is being monitored.
The infected netballer had travelled back from the Philippines to New Zealand in early May and developed "flu-like" measles symptoms about a fortnight later.
Thinking she merely had a bad cold, she showed up for the clash between Whangārei-based Manawanui and Naumai, a team from Dargaville/Ruanui at the ASB Stadium in Whangārei.
But the Manawanui player - thought to be aged 19 - was so ill she had to be taken off the court after two quarters.
She went to Whangārei Hospital last week where she was diagnosed with measles and was admitted on Saturday to the intensive care unit. She was described by a hospital spokeswoman as being in a stable condition.
Nationally 158 confirmed cases of measles have been reported this year to last Friday - including 65 who were admitted to hospital.
Naumai coach Maree Langdon, the president of Northern Wairoa Netball, told the Herald her team was contacted by Northland District Health Board. Members of both teams, including her, were in isolation until next Saturday.
"We had three girls closely marking her [the unwell player]. So far they are all feeling well bar one who said she feels a little bit like she's got the flu. We are keeping an eye on her."
Northland medical officer of health Dr Virginia McLaughlin said several of the 36 people in isolation were feeling unwell with non-specific symptoms.
"We will be monitoring them daily to see if these symptoms improve or develop into measles."
Langdon said 13 Naumai members, including the manager, were in isolation, although two who have been fully immunised with two doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, can go back to work tomorrow.
"Everybody thought they'd had their MMR shots. I rang the Dargaville Medical Centre. They searched the national database. It came back only two of our girls were fully immunised."
The rest were unaware they were either unvaccinated or had only had one shot.
"My mum says I have been [vaccinated]. I have had one shot," said Langdon, 45.
She helps run a logging company with her husband.
"I'm fine. I can do that from home [but] just getting my little fellow who is five started in school - I can't take him to school … he doesn't stay by himself."
Most of the Naumai players are about 20. One is 16 and at school and the oldest is around 38.
Langdon said her team was not angry at the young woman who has measles but they were "upset they are not fully immunised".
"If anything, we probably have empathy for her."
"She would have felt she was sick. She wouldn't have known she had measles. It just highlights when you are playing contact sports in enclosed environments how important vaccination is."
Some Naumai members would lose a week's income from being in isolation, including one who had just started a new business as a massage therapist and had had to cancel all clients for the week.
The manager of the Manawanui team declined to comment.
Measles is highly infectious and is easily spread when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes. The disease can survive in the air for up to two hours after the infected person leaves.
People aged 50 or older are generally assumed to be immune, from having had the disease as a child before vaccination was available. Catch-up vaccination is offered at medical centres, depending on supplies, for those aged 15 months to 50 years.
Measles often starts with flu-like symptoms, including a runny nose, cough, sore red eyes and a high fever. A few days later a rash starts on the face and neck, then spreads to the rest of the body. A person can have the disease and spread it to others before feeling sick or show any symptoms.
Complications are common and can be serious, including a weakened immune system, and brain inflammation, which can be fatal. Catching measles while pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage and premature labour.
The DHB said there had been "limited exposure" at the stadium. There was a "low risk" for people who were there between about 6.20pm and 8.30pm on May 17. Anyone there then is urged to contact the Public Health Unit on 0800 600 720.
McLaughlin said the ex-Philippines case was the fourth of measles in Northland this year; in three of those, the person caught the disease outside the region.
More than 100 contacts fanning out from the young woman were being followed up as a result of her diagnosis.
McLaughlin said immunisation was the only way to stop a measles outbreak.
Langdon said a number of her team's members would go together next Monday to receive catch-up shots for MMR and other vaccines they had missed.