A baby is in critical condition in Starship Children's Hospital's intensive care unit, as the number of people infected with the illness in Auckland continues to grow.
Starship confirmed today three children were in hospital with the illness; one critical and two stable.
The children are among 778 confirmed cases of measles in Auckland as of this afternoon — up 19 since yesterday. Nationally, 937 have fallen ill this year.
A Starship spokeswoman wasn't able to give any other details on the ages or genders of the sick children.
But a source told the Herald that mid-week a 9-month-old girl had been in critical condition and on life support as she battled the illness.
In the past two months, three babies have been admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit fighting for their lives.
Around 40 per cent of those infected with measles during the outbreak had been hospitalised, Auckland Regional Public Health Service medical officer of health, Dr William Rainger, said this afternoon.
"Some of these people have been very, very unwell. But [there have been] no deaths yet."
The 19-case increase in the past 24 hours matched the average 18 to 20 new cases in Auckland each day in the past week, he said.
Under 5s and those aged between 15 and 29 were at risk and the message continued to be for those who aren't immunised, or who are unsure of their immunisation status, to get vaccinated. Those born before January 1, 1969, including overseas, are considered immune.
"Our objectives now are to limit the spread in Auckland, protect the most vulnerable, increase the uptake of vaccination ... and focus on limiting the spread of measles around the country."
In the past week hundreds of unvaccinated school pupils have been told to stay home from schools in South Auckland, the epicentre of the outbreak, and the regional public health service was continuing to work with the Ministry of Education to help the more than 50 Auckland schools who have had measles cases this year.
Organisers of the New Zealand's secondary schools rugby league competition, due to be played in South Auckland this week, also called off the tournament amid fears of spreading the illness.
The regional public health service wasn't asking for events to be cancelled or for people stay away from gatherings, unless they've been asked to be in quarantine or are unwell with possible measles symptoms, Rainger said.
"A medical officer of health does have powers to direct organisers of public events to cancel these, if there's a risk to public health. ... the current level of risk of measles in Auckland doesn't warrant using these powers."
However, if organisers know people attending are likely to have been exposed to measles they should seek advice from the service or other medical professionals about the risk.
"On the basis of this discussion, an event organiser might decide to cancel their event."
The risk to most people remained very small, but the illness could spread rapidly — one person with measles could give the illness to 15 others, compared to two for the flu, he said.
Herd immunity had been lost in Auckland, but the size of the outbreak also needed to be kept in context with the city's population of 1.6m.
"It's not a crisis. It's a serious outbreak of a serious disease and people should get immunised."
As there was no national register of vaccinations for anyone aged over 15, all adults under 50 should check their medical records, Well Child or Plunket book to see if they had been vaccinated.
"If you're not sure, or can't find your records, get vaccinated. Another dose of the MMR vaccine will not hurt you."
Free vaccinations are available at any GP or at two drop-in clinics in south Auckland, Counties Manukau District Health Board child, youth and maternity general manager Carmel Ellis said, while urging people not to go to Middlemore Hospital for their jab.
At the Manukau SuperClinic today dozens were waiting for vaccinations, and nurse numbers would be boosted tomorrow, Ellis said.
More than 125 people had been vaccinated at the drop in clinics by this afternoon, she said.
Among them was 16-year-old Josh Tregaskis.
He had his first MMR vaccination aged 15 months, but after he was diagnosed with autism 17 months later his mum Yolande Ferreira was spooked by the publication of a since-debunked study which claimed the vaccine was increasing autism in British children, and feared her son's autism could get worse with a second dose of the vaccine aged 4.
The paper was later discredited and its author, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical licence and had his paper retracted.
Josh, a Pakuranga College pupil, told the Herald, "mum fell for the whole anti-vaxxer thing". When she asked if he wanted to get his belated second vaccination this morning, he said he did.
She had done "hours and hours" of research at the time she decided against Josh's second vaccination, when she was frustrated to find there was "no middle ground" between the public health message and the anti-vaccination movement, Ferreira said.
But she had since learned the Wakefield study had been discredited and that there was no link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
"I'm happy to change my mind anytime, as long as the evidence is there."
Where to get your free measles vaccination
- Any GP
- Or one of the following drop in clinics:
Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm: Clendon Public Nursing Office, Clendon Shopping Centre
Saturday and Sunday 9am - 4pm: Manukau SupaClinic, 901 Great South Rd
* Do not go to Middlemore Hospital for your vaccination