Measles outbreaks hit Hamilton schools

Measles outbreaks have forced two large Hamilton schools to quarantine students and cancel or postpone all sporting, cultural and academic trips for the rest of the term, and one has postponed its school ball.

Fraser High School and Hamilton Girls' High School, with a combined roll of 3300 pupils, have ordered all students who have not been immunised to stay at home under quarantine for at least the two-week incubation period.

This includes a ban on public places such as sport events, gatherings, parties and public transport.

The Waikato DHB has confirmed 38 cases of measles at Fraser High School, one at Hamilton Girls', and 20 suspected cases are being investigated throughout the city.

Fraser High School has postponed the July 4 school ball and is also considering banning all visitors to the school until term 3 starts on July 21 -- unless students and visitors can prove that they're fully immunised with two shots of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.

"All Fraser sporting, cultural and academic trips are cancelled or postponed for the remainder of term 2," a newsletter from principal Virginia Crawford said.

Staff have also been hit by the highly infectious virus. To ease pressure on staff and reduce the risk of infection, yesterday Fraser High School taught only juniors, while today was for seniors only. Next Monday only juniors have been asked to attend school.

Mrs Crawford, who did not return calls today, noted the massive burden on the school and its 1800 students.

" I apologise once again for the serious inconvenience this is to our school community. The school is doing everything we can to ensure that the school remains open, and staffed to support our students in an extra-ordinary situation," she wrote in a school newsletter.

Hamilton Girls' High School principal Marie Gordon said the school had also stopped exchanges with other schools.

"It is an inconvenience, it is a disruption. But we have to ensure that we are being precautionary and our community is fully kept in the loop," Mrs Gordon said.

She did not yet know how many students of the 1600 enrolled would be quarantined at home, as letters to parents were only delivered yesterday.

"We're checking the immunisation status of our staff and students. We've asked them to stay home until June 20, if they're not sure."

Waikato DHB medical officer of health Anita Bell said measles can be very serious, "with one in three sufferers experiencing complications such as ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis or diarrhoea".

"While one in 10 on average requires hospitalisation, admission rates in this outbreak have been higher."

The DHB is sending information packs to all schools, early childhood centres and general practice.

People in danger of measles are:

- People younger than 45-years-old who have not had two doses of the MMR vaccine, or have not had a laboratory confirmed positive measles result

- Children over four-years-old who have not received their second dose of MMR

- Infants under the age of 15 months who have not received their first routine dose of MMR vaccine

"Anyone born before 1969 or who has received two doses of MMR can reasonably assume they are already immune," Dr Bell said.

- By Derek Cheng of APNZ

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