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Authorities watchful for possible Dunedin measles outbreak

Dunedin lights

Friday 30 September 2011 2:37pm

A visitor from Wellington who stayed at Cumberland College last weekend was infectious with measles during their short visit. Student and public health authorities have informed approximately 30 Dunedin students on the same floor where the person was staying at the College.

Medical Officer of Health Dr John Holmes says the person returned to Wellington on Monday morning and was diagnosed with measles on Wednesday of this week.

He says that while the risk of Cumberland College students being exposed to the disease is relatively low, it is still advisable for students to check their measles vaccination status with their parents or family doctor.

If the students have not had two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or they are unsure whether they have been vaccinated, they are strongly advised to receive a dose of vaccine to protect against possible future infection. This vaccination will be provided free from the Student Health Service.

Dr Holmes says no-one from Cumberland College has at this stage reported symptoms of measles, which is a highly infectious and potentially serious viral illness.

The only protection against measles is previous exposure or vaccination. Measles begins with fever, tiredness, cough, runny nose and inflamed red eyes. Between the third and seventh day a red blotchy rash appears and in 24 to 48 hours spreads over the whole body. The rash may last up to seven days.

The incubation period is usually from eight to 12 days, but may range up to 18 days. The person becomes infectious about two days before the symptoms start and remains infectious for four days after the rash has appeared.

“We are taking sensible precautionary measures to prevent any spread at this stage, although we believe the risk of exposure will be relatively low, and no-one has been isolated,” says Dr Holmes.

“However, we will inform both the students and the public when and if that situation changes.

“We are looking at a highly immunised group of students within Cumberland and consider the likely spread may be localised to one floor,” he says.

However, anyone with any signs or symptoms of measles should stay home and call their doctor and tell them that they may have been exposed to measles. The practice will make special arrangements to see the person to minimise the risk of spreading the infection to other people in the waiting room. People with such symptoms should stay away from class or work, public places and social gatherings.

For the wider student and Dunedin community, this is a timely reminder for all people to think about their immunity status, and double check with a family doctor if unsure.

“But we will keep the Cumberland College and the wider student and Dunedin community fully informed of any developments or if an outbreak here does occur,” says Dr Holmes.

Other measles information/helpful numbers

If students have any queries they are advised to contact Student Health Service, and for others, a family doctor, or practice nurse or Healthline 0800 611 116. Or phone Public Health South 476 9800.

Immunisation Handbook 2011 provides information about immunisation

For further information about measles see the Auckland Regional Public Health website

For further information, contact

Jo Harvey
Communications Officer
Southern DHB
Mob 027 674 1758

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