Measles outbreak: Fears virus could become endemic again

by RNZ / 19 March, 2019

Health experts warn the latest outbreak of measles could once again make the virus endemic, if not enough is done to prevent its spread.

Forty-nine cases of measles have now been confirmed this year, with about 30 of the cases being in the Canterbury region.

In 2017, New Zealand was rid of endemic measles for the first time, meaning any new cases are brought in from overseas.

ESR public health physician Jill Sherwood said history showed the uptake of vaccinations would decide whether measles would once again get a foothold.

"In 2009, when there was an increase in measles cases, there was a huge push to get particularly children vaccinated, to get people caught up on their vaccines and the cases dropped down," she said.

"Measles was still endemic then, but the epidemic didn't take off the way it did for instance in 1991."

Read more: The measles outbreak shows there's no vaccine for ignorance

There were more than 900 hospitalisations in the 1991 epidemic and seven deaths.

Dr Sherwood said many people thought of measles as a common childhood illness, but they did not understand how high the death rates were when it was widely circulated.

She said the susceptible pool of people not immune got bigger over time.

"We're constantly getting new people getting in to the population because we have babies who won't be immune, plus we have people coming into the country and we have a low vaccination rate in older teenagers and young adults, if the virus finds a group that's got a low vaccinate rate, we really run the risk that it will take off," she said.

She said the fact measles were once again becoming endemic in other countries was an extra challenge.

"Canada, the United States, Australia the United Kingdom, there's also big outbreaks that's been occurring in various European countries as well and that's on top of places who haven't been able to get rid of the virus," she said

She recommended people check they have been immunised if they were born after 1969 and said it was possible those who have come to New Zealand from overseas to search their country of origin's vaccination schedule to check as well.

This was first published on Radio NZ.


The key to long-term success after weight-loss surgery
107438 2019-06-26 00:00:00Z Health

The key to long-term success after weight-loss sur…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Weight-loss surgery is becoming more common, but lifestyle and attitude changes are needed for long-term success.

Read more
Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family recipes
107605 2019-06-25 11:39:22Z Food

Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family rec…

by Lauraine Jacobs

Māori food champions Kasey and Karena Bird share traditional family recipes that are ideal for Matariki.

Read more
Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's going to make a better world
107579 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Profiles

Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's g…

by Emma Clifton

The MP made world headlines when she cycled to hospital to give birth. She talks about how this put her and what she stands for in the spotlight.

Read more
Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky in the road
107472 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Movies

Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky…

by Russell Baillie

The fourth Toy Story instalment is clever, enjoyable and refreshingly weird.

Read more
Mitre 10 living wage ruling sets precedent for retail staff - union
Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebook and Google
107596 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebo…

by Peter Griffin

In the wake of data-privacy scandals, Apple is beefing up protection for owners of its devices.

Read more
Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying tax
107563 2019-06-24 16:28:59Z Business

Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying…

by Nikki Mandow

We are pretty good about paying our taxes here, so why would we willingly go along with avoiding GST?

Read more
Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs crackdown?
107530 2019-06-24 10:19:12Z Business

Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs…

by Nikki Mandow

New Zealand retailers hit by a GST rort that has been going on for at least two years hope officials, Trade Me, ministers and even customers will...

Read more