As Samoa grapples with a measles epidemic, a senior Bay of Plenty health official urges people to check their immunisation status and stay vigilant. Sandra Conchie reveals the growing number of confirmed cases in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes districts.
The number of confirmed cases of measles in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes district has risen again with more than 70 confirmed cases since January.
• Measles outbreak worsens in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes district
• Tauranga Hospital has admitted 17 people with measles since January
• Measles outbreak in Auckland prompts Bay of Plenty warning
• Measles jabs in the Bay for young children first due to limited supplies of vaccine
Toi Te Ora's Medical Officer of Health Dr Jim Miller said Samoa's measles outbreak "tragically demonstrates" how serious this disease is.
"We are feeling for our Pacific neighbours."
The death toll in Samoa has risen to 48 since the outbreak began in October and there have been more than 3500 confirmed cases of the disease.
"It is so important to check whether you or your whānau are immunised, otherwise, you risk bringing measles home from overseas travel or become part of our local New Zealand outbreak which is by no means over yet," he said.
"With holidays approaching and families moving around the country more, the risk of passing the infection on is increased - even more so if travelling abroad."
Miller said since January 1 this year, there have been 73 confirmed cases of measles in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes area, of which 24 people required hospital admission.
Forty-one cases were in the Western Bay, 19 in Rotorua district, 11 in Taupō and two in the Eastern Bay of Plenty area, of which 46 were notified between August 1 and November 29.
Measles-infected Air NZ passenger landed in Tauranga
Why immunisation rates are low in parts of the Bay of Plenty
This includes 19 confirmed cases who were aged under 16.
Of the seven confirmed cases since November 2, five were aged 17 years and over, one aged under 5, and the other patient was aged between 5 and 16 years.
Two of the latest confirmed cases had visited Auckland where there have been 1700 confirmed cases so far this year and one had travelled overseas, Miller revealed.
Miller urged everyone to ask themselves - "Is my family protected?"
"Dig out your Well Child or Plunket book and check your immunisation records or if unsure simply ask your doctor."
MMR vaccine supplies continue to improve, so if not immune to measles contact your doctor to get vaccinated as soon as possible. It is free and very effective, he said.
There were no confirmed cases of measles notified in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes area in 2018, he said.
According to the Ministry of Health's website, the numbers of confirmed cases nationwide this year have risen to 2122, the large majority in the Auckland region.
A mass vaccination campaign is under way in Samoa with dozens of New Zealand and Australian nurses in the country to help.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said among the medical team were up to 15 intensive care specialists.