Measles, rubella gone from NZ

Michael Baker
Michael Baker
The World Health Organisation has verified New Zealand has successfully eliminated endemic measles and rubella for the first time.

This means no measles or rubella cases have originated in this country for the past three years, Ministry of Health director of public health  Caroline McElnay said.

Professor of public health at the University of Otago  Michael Baker said it was the culmination of decades of work to achieve high coverage of vaccinations.‘‘It’s just a great success story for New Zealand ...

"In the end it means a high level of safety and protection for our children."

Prof Baker explained  the term "elimination" did not mean  no-one would ever get  measles in future, but that there had been no occurrences of a transmission of measles lasting more than 12 months in the past three years and no case of congenital rubella in 20 years.

"It essentially fizzles out. That means you don’t get a sustained epidemic."

The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella, all which can be serious in young adults. Measles is extremely contagious and more than 95% of people need to be fully vaccinated to prevent sustained outbreaks. Dr McElnay said about 90% of young children had received both doses of MMR by age 5 in New Zealand, but only about 80% of teenagers and young adults had had both doses, which left  them at risk.

"In New Zealand, people aged 12 to 32 years have lower vaccination rates than young children so are less likely to be protected against these diseases.

"That’s why teens and young adults have been most affected in the recent mumps outbreaks."

Dr  McElnay urged people to check their medical records and get vaccinated if they were not sure they were fully immunised.

Measles had been eliminated in the Americas, Australia, the United Kingdom and many other countries, but outbreaks occurred from time to time.

— Sarah Harris

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