Measles out­break al­most went vi­ral

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - NI­CHOLAS MCBRIDE

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.

123RF

Measles al­most spread from Palmer­ston North to Canada, thanks to over­seas travel.

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