Four strains of measles are circulating within New Zealand, infecting as many as 30 people per day in Auckland, as the city grapples to contain the outbreak.
Experts now fear the country could lose its measles elimination status if the outbreaks continue to spread as quickly as they have this month.
Nurses in South Auckland schools will now be trained to administer the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in a bid to stop the disease from racing through school communities in an area which has been hardest hit by the measles outbreaks.
READ MORE: Everything you need to know about measles
Vials of the vaccine have been flying off the doctor's shelves at a rate of 20,000 per month, according to Pharmac - up on the average 12,000 per month. But the country is primed to deal with the extra demand, with 100,000 doses of the MMR vaccine in stock.
The vaccine protects against all strains of the disease, Pharmac said.
Immunisation experts and the Institute of Environmental Science & Research (ESR) confirmed the country was dealing with more than one strain of measles, classing the situation as multiple outbreaks.
"This is not a single outbreak. We are getting multiple imports, and then each import in its own way is spreading," said Associate Professor Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre.
"So this is multiple outbreaks and there's a big discussion going on about whether this is then considered an epidemic or not because it's not a single outbreak."
There are currently four strains of measles circulating in New Zealand, ESR reports said, with all cases having originated outside of the country and brought in by travellers coming in from overseas.
There are now 804 confirmed cases of the highly infectious disease in the City of Sails alone - an increase of 45 since Friday - with at least 520 in the Counties Manukau district health board area alone.
The number of people infected with measles nationally soared in August, more than doubling from 441 on August 2, to 963 yesterday , according to
The increase saw heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker urging people in the Counties Manukau DHB area to get vaccinated, while warnings were issued yesterday to rugby fans with tickets to the Pasifika showdown at Eden Park tonight to stay at home if they're feeling unwell.
The double-header at Eden Park is a warm-up for the Pacific rugby teams from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji ahead of the Rugby World Cup next month. With a large percentage of confirmed measles cases being from the Pacific community, rugby fans were told to heed the advice and stay home if they feel sick to help prevent the disease from spreading further.
Get immunised! Protect you and your whaanau against measles
We're now at 475 measles cases in Counties - 700 in total for Auckland. Protect you and your whaanau and get your measles vaccine - it's FREE for people 1-50 years. Here's Middlemore Foundation ambassador Joseph Parker encouraging whaanau to get immunised! Let's stop further spread in our rohe! For more info: arphs.health.nz/measles or check out their Facebook page for updates: Auckland Regional Public Health ServicePosted by Counties Manukau Health on Wednesday, 28 August 2019
Medical officer of health Dr William Rainger said: "We would ask that people stay away from this event if they are feeling unwell. With measles now circulating in Pacific communities in Auckland, the only way for people to protect themselves is to be vaccinated.''
The latest figures make this New Zealand's worst measles epidemic in at least 22 years.
Counties Manukau DHB has also set up a number of free drop-in clinics daily and on Saturdays in order to make it easier for people to get immunised, as well as training school nurses to provide the vaccine across 34 schools in the area.
The Ministry of Health has already warned people travelling to Auckland to make sure they and their children are fully vaccinated at least two weeks before arriving in the city, and advised parents of infants aged 12 to 14 months that they can get their 15-month MMR jab early.
New Zealand isn't the only country grappling with a measles outbreak, with the Philippines and many European countries also in the same boat.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of countries reaching or keeping measles elimination status has declined, with both Greece and the UK losing their status.
"Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die," Dr Günter Pfaff, chair of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC), said.
So far this year Europe has exceeded the number of cases reported for the whole of 2018 - reaching around 90,000 cases.
Experts here fear New Zealand is on track to also lose its status - if one strain continues to circulate internally for 12 months, we will lose elimination status.
The first case of measles in New Zealand this year was in January, but experts are classing the outbreak as starting in March.
It's a highly contagious disease, which spreads easily through the air or contaminated surfaces - it's so infectious a person can contract measles from air droplets in a room two hours after an infected person has left.
Symptoms usually begin to appear at around 10-14 days after infection, starting with fever, cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes). Small white spots (Koplik spots) may also appear inside the mouth.
A rash appears two to four days after the first symptoms, beginning at the hairline and gradually spreading down the body to the arms and legs.
• If you think you have measles, stay at home - do not go to work, school, or other public places like shopping malls or on public transport. Do not go to your GP's office or your local hospital's emergency department. Instead, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or call your GP.