Health officials in New Zealand continue to report additional measles cases this year with 1576 confirmed cases of measles notified across New Zealand through Sep. 27. Auckland has been especially hard hit reporting the bulk of cases in the country with 1307. In addition, a report from the Auckland regional coordination centre for the measles outbreak has found the disproportionate number of preschoolers with the disease behind the high rate of hospitalization.
Director of Health Outcomes for the Waitematā and Auckland DHBs, Dr Karen Bartholomew, says the report has found the proportion of people hospitalized with measles this year is 35 to 40 percent, and this is higher than anticipated. “In other outbreaks and in other countries the hospitalization rate is usually closer to 10 percent. We believe that the main reason for this is the high number and the high rate of children aged 0 – 4 years with measles. Young children are very susceptible to complications from measles such as pneumonia,” Dr Bartholomew says.
Around 52 percent of children under 5 years with measles have been hospitalized in this outbreak, and Maori and Pacific children and adults are more likely to be in hospital with measles, with Maori rates at 41 percent and Pacific rates at 37 percent. The most common complication is pneumonia, where there have been 65 hospitalizations, but there have also been three hospitalizations for encephalitis. “While there have been no measles deaths in this outbreak, there have been five pregnant women hospitalized and two fetal losses associated with these events. “These are very sad events for these two women and their families. We do know that measles can cause pregnancy complications including miscarriage and pre-term birth. I want to reassure pregnant women that they have the same risk of coming into contact with measles as anyone else in Auckland (or those visiting). Though the risk is still low for each individual,” Dr Bartholomew says.
“The advice for pregnant women is to talk to your lead maternity carer or general practitioner (GP). They will be able to tell you if you have been tested for rubella, and in New Zealand, if you are immune to rubella, you are usually considered to be immune to measles,” she added.