14 March 2019 – updated 5pm, following Ministry of Health advisory

Measles and influenza outbreaks in South – what you need to know

The second case of measles that has now been identified in the Southern district, and higher than usual levels of influenza in the community, has reinforced reminders to “stay home if you are sick, and call your GP or Healthline first if you need help,” says Southern DHB Medical Officer of Health Dr Marion Poore.

Ministry of Health has advised today that one dose of MMR or measles vaccine will protect 95% of vaccinated people against measles, so patients who have previously been vaccinated are likely to be protected.  

However those who have never been vaccinated and who have been exposed to measles should remain in isolation to avoid exposing others to the illness.

What you need to know:

Measles

  • Ministry of Health advice is that one dose of MMR or measles vaccine will protect 95% of vaccinated people against measles, so patients who have previously been vaccinated are likely to be protected.  
  • Two cases measles have been confirmed in the Southern district.  The first was on 22 February and the second occurred this week when a 39 year old man who had been exposed to measles in Christchurch became sick while visiting family in Dunedin. Public Health South is currently following up with those he had been in contact with during his infectious period.

What you need to know:

  • People are not at risk if they have had two vaccinations for measles, or were born before 1969 or have had measles
  • Ministry of Health advice is that those who have had one vaccination are also considered to have high level of protection (95%). 
  • People who may have been exposed to measles and have never been vaccinated or had the disease, are being asked to stay in isolation until the incubation period is over.
  • On time vaccination with MMR for children at ages 15 months and 4 years is the best way to prevent measles. Public Health South's advice is to continue with the usual vaccination schedule at this time. The clinical situation in Canterbury is different with a significant number of confirmed cases of measles, which has resulted in their decision focus on those who have never been vaccinated.
  • We encourage those aged 29 – 50 years to find out their vaccination status for measles by contacting their general practice.
  • MMR is available free from your family health provider
  • If you require medical attention because you think you may have measles, please call your GP first who will advise what to do. GPs will take precautions, such as attending to patients in their carparks if needed to prevent avoidable exposure to others.
  • Measles coverage at 28 Feb 2019 is 93% for children aged four years and 92% for those aged two years.

Advice for families travelling to Christchurch:

  • For families with unvaccinated children, consider if travel is essential. You may wish to discuss vaccination with your general practice to see if it is necessary to bring forward a scheduled vaccination.

Influenza

Seasonal Influenza viruses (H3N2; H1N1) are currently circulating in Otago and Southland communities including among health care staff. This is much earlier in the year than the usual winter influenza season in July.  Influenza is very infectious and easily spread to other people especially in the first five days of illness. Influenza viruses can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

 

What you need to know:

  • Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Symptoms include feeling extremely unwell, a sudden high temperature, headache, general aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat.

  • This year’s seasonal vaccine will be available by 1 April. The vaccine is a good match with the circulating strains, and we encourage people to take up this opportunity once it becomes available.

  • Avoid spreading the flu

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

• Wash your hands often with warm water and soap

• Use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze

• Bin used tissues as quickly as possible. Stay at home if you’re unwell, and call your GP practice first

  • The flu vaccine is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications - pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and people of any age with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including serious asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.

  • For free health advice, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.