Officials race to identify measles patient's contacts

Public health officials are scrambling to trace the movements of a University of Otago student after the young woman was diagnosed as having measles.

The woman (18) lives in a flat rather than a hall of residence.

"Public Health South is working to identify all close contacts, determining their immunisation status and offering vaccination,'' Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Susan Jack said.

Those close contacts were about a dozen people, but with Orientation in full swing health officials were keen to trace the woman's contacts as soon as possible.

Measles is highly contagious and can be life-threatening. About one in 10 people with it will need hospital treatment.

"People are infectious from five days before the onset of the rash to five days after the rash starts and should stay in isolation during this time,'' Dr Jack said.

"This means staying home from school or work and having no contact with unimmunised people.''

The World Health Organisation last year declared New Zealand had reached endemic measles elimination status, meaning at least 95% of people were fully vaccinated against the disease.

Despite that, there has been a rash of recent cases in the South - a Te Anau man and women from Milford Sound and Marlborough were diagnosed with the disease at the end of last year.

Those people, like the latest person to contract the illness, were not immunised against measles.

"Measles is highly infectious,'' Dr Jack said.

"If you think you have symptoms of measles, it is vital that you do not visit your GP office, emergency room or after-hours clinic.

"Instead, please phone your GP practice or Healthline for advice.''

Measles symptoms

• Respiratory illness with dry cough, runny nose, headache

• Temperature over 38.5degC and feeling very unwell

• A red blotchy rash starts on day 2-4, usually on the face and moving to the chest and arms.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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