Measles outbreak almost went viral
An outbreak of measles in Horowhenua and Palmerston North almost spread across the Pacific to Canada thanks to a couple of tourists.
The outbreak closed three schools in Levin and two in Palmerston North in 2016. Another outbreak this year closed the tertiary campus at the Institute of the Pacific United NZ in Palmerston North.
It has now been confirmed that the 2016 outbreak almost went international.
MidCentral District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Robert Weir said officials learnt about the spread too late.
‘‘We identified a case of measles and that case had a number of contacts required to go into isolation.
‘‘It happened two of those contacts were a Canadian couple visiting New Zealand.
‘‘By the time we were aware of the case of measles, they were flying back to Canada.’’
Weir made the revelation during a presentation on public health measures at a MidCentral meeting this week.
He said the DHB had to inform the Ministry of Health, which then contacted Canadian officials. They met the couple at the airport and put them in isolation.
Weir said the MidCentral district had now had three outbreaks of measles in the past three years.
Measles is highly infectious and anyone not immune is at risk if they come in to contact with the disease.
It spreads from person to person through the air via breathing, coughing and sneezing, and contact with those secretions. The illness usually starts between 10 and 14 days after contact.
University of Otago public health professor Michael Baker said infectious diseases were flying around the country constantly.
‘‘People can turn up in New Zealand and they can be well enough to travel, but can be incubating a disease.’’
However, there was no cause for alarm, he said.
‘‘Generally, New Zealand has a sophisticated approach. [The risk of infection for travellers] is the same as people who live here.’’
Baker said it was not common for New Zealand to transmit measles cases internationally.
Measles almost spread from Palmerston North to Canada, thanks to overseas travel.