The Guardian newspaper reports that NZ’s third-largest city Christchurch affected as authorities admit disease is ‘circulating widely’ amid vaccine shortage.
A measles outbreak on the south island of New Zealand is causing serious concern, with 22 confirmed cases and emergency supplies of vaccine being rushed from around the country.
Amid the worst outbreak “in years”, health officials have warned cases will spread in the coming days and weeks, as around one-fifth of people living in the affected Canterbury region have not had their full suite of vaccinations, or any at all.
“It can now be assumed that measles is circulating widely in our community,” the Canterbury District Health Board said in a statement.
Parents say they are living in fear of their children contracting the illness, as New Zealand’s third-largest city, Christchurch, and surrounding regions run out of vaccines.
Generally, children are eligible for their first measles shot when they are 12 months old, meaning babies are especially vulnerable to contracting the disease.
Measles cases are rising globally, including in wealthy nations such as the United States and Germany, where some parents shun the vaccines mostly for philosophical or religious reasons, or due to misinformation.
A number of measles outbreaks have occurred in New Zealand in the last few years, but the current outbreak is significant and spreading quickly.
“Unimmunised people who come within two metres of an infectious person, however briefly, have a 90% chance of contracting measles,” the Canterbury district health board said in a statement.
Media and social media websites such as Facebook have been asked to monitor their coverage of measles, to ensure only accurate advice and information is published.
Health experts are concerned that the Canterbury outbreak is the tip of the iceberg in New Zealand, and further outbreaks in different parts of the country are expected as the year progresses.
The latest outbreak came from people who were thought not to be fully immunised. People are considered immune if they have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.