Mumps outbreak sparks call to immunise

People from Oamaru’s Pacific communities are being urged to immunise against mumps after an outbreak of the virus in the North Otago town.

A Southern District Health Board spokeswoman said the outbreak appeared to be contained given no new cases have been reported since August.

Seven cases of mumps in Oamaru were confirmed and it was believed Oamaru’s cases were linked to a mumps outbreak in Auckland and the Pacific Islands and not to mumps cases reported in Dunedin last month.

Medical officer of Health Naomi Gough said those most at risk were people from countries where the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine was not available, including some Pacific Islands, and people whose vaccination schedule was not up to date.

"Schools, kindergartens and early childhood centres in Oamaru are notifying parents of the outbreak and encouraging them to check their child’s immunisation records to ensure their vaccinations — and specifically the MMR vaccine — are up to date."

People from Pacific communities were being encouraged to immunise, Dr Gough said.

"While there have not been any new cases reported this month in Oamaru, we can expect to see more cases present that, as long as there is an outbreak in Auckland and the Pacific Islands.

"We live in global communities these days and people travel more than ever."

Waitaki Tongan Community president Kaliopeta Talanoa Palu said conversations about immunisations were being welcomed in Oamaru.

"We’ve been talking to our church leaders and some families from our communities.

"I haven’t heard anyone against it. They all support the idea, especially young families that have young children."

The Oamaru cluster was identified and traced after one patient sought medical treatment.

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