NZ measles outbreak continues to spread

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A major vaccination drive will get underway in the South Island of New Zealand as health authorities respond to the latest measles outbreak which was confirmed recently and is expected to spread across the South Island's Canterbury region.

Health authorities warn that anyone who isn't immunized or who hasn't received two doses of the MMR vaccine is at higher risk of getting sick. They will be available for use from Wednesday.

"Experts agree that between 92 percent and 95 percent of children should receive two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to maintain herd immunity against measles", Franks said.

Thousands of vaccines are being delivered to health centres in the Canterbury district, which includes Christchurch, as the potentially life-threatening disease widened to more than 20 confirmed cases.

The DHB said under-immunised people who came within two metres of an infectious person, however briefly, had a 90 per cent chance of contracting measles.

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Even though the vaccine is highly effective, globally around 110,000 people died from measles in 2017, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

But she said the level of immunisation compliance needed to be high to ensure everyone in the community was protected.

With a median age of 2 years old, 56% of measles cases are under 5 years of age.

"The resurgence of measles is of serious concern, with extended outbreaks occurring across regions, and particularly in countries that had achieved, or were close to achieving measles elimination", said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes at WHO. Those aged between 29 and 50 will only have had one measles vaccination and are not considered immune. The department is "working directly with the case to identify potential contacts and make arrangements for follow up immunizations and care if necessary", officials said in a release.

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