To all school principals
9 August 2011
The measles outbreaks in Auckland and Waikato are mainly affecting unimmunised school children.
By 8 August, 175 measles cases had been reported this year, including 19 who needed hospital treatment. Most cases were in the Auckland region, although 24 cases were reported in Hawke’s Bay this year. In the past week, 12 cases have been reported in the Waikato region, mainly around Te Awamutu.
Measles is a highly infectious disease and is more serious than many people realise. Symptoms include fever, cough, red eyes and a runny nose, and then a rash which develops after about three days. Complications can include middle ear infections, pneumonia, and, more rarely, encephalitis or brain inflammation. About one in ten people infected need to be hospitalised.
The best measles prevention is the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine which is free for all New Zealand children.
What schools can do
Prevent measles from spreading by:
1. Telling staff, parents and caregivers about the measles outbreaks and that measles may spread to other parts of the country.
2. Updating your immunisation register. All primary schools must keep an immunisation register under the Health (Immunisation) Regulations 1995. This means you can quickly identify unimmunised children who have been in contact with someone with measles and help reduce the risk of measles spreading.
3. Ask parents and caregivers to make sure that their children’s immunisations are up-to-date. Staff born during or after 1969 should also be vaccinated for measles.
4. For school teams attending Tournament Week (Aug 22-26). All students and adults attending should check their measles immunisation status. If they are not fully vaccinated (ie 2 MMR vaccinations) and are born after 1969, they should see their doctor or nurse to get immunised as soon as possible before the event. Unimmunised students who were exposed to measles in the two weeks prior to the event should not attend.
Measles at your school
If a child becomes unwell at your school:
Separate unwell children
If a child becomes unwell with possible measles, separate any unwell child from other children while waiting to be taken home. This helps minimise the risk of measles spreading.
GP will notify medical officer of health
GPs and health professionals must notify the local medical officer of health of any suspected measles cases. When a notification is confirmed as measles, public health staff will give you information and advice.
People with measles must stay home
Any student or teacher with measles must stay away from school for seven days from the appearance of the rash and until recovery, depending on the advice of the medical officer of health. Unimmunised students, or those with no immunity to measles, who have been in close contact with a measles case during the infectious stages should stay away from school for 14 days from their last contact. This requirement is under the Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 1966 (Regulation 14). These exclusions also apply to students taking part in sporting events. Please follow the advice of the medical officer of health.
You can also phone the Immunisation Advisory Centre toll-free line 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) for advice.
If you would like to discuss these issues, please contact your
local public health service. You can find more information at
Thank you for your support.
Dr Mark Jacobs
Director of Public Health
Ministry of Health