World

Kiwi medicos hope measles on decline

By AAP Newswire

The number of New Zealanders to have contracted measles continues to rise, but health officials are cautiously optimistic the trend-line will head south.

As of Thursday, 1850 Kiwis had contracted the infectious, but preventable, disease this year.

That number, which includes 1495 in Auckland alone, puts the 2019 outbreak in the same bracket as the last major outbreak, in 1997 when 2000 people were infected.

Scores of people have also been identified with the disease in Northland, Waikato and Southland.

A third of those that have caught measles this year have been hospitalised, including large proportions of young children.

No adults or children have died with the disease, defying mortality expectations of around one in 1000 cases.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service did announce last month that two unborn babies died after their mothers contracted measles.

The latest development was the unwitting exposure of 1200 attendees to a Church camp in Rotorua, announced on Wednesday.

Regional health boards issue alerts on a near-daily basis when they learn of exposures, which have included a number of flights to Australia.

Whether or not the number of infected Kiwis crashes past 2000 - making it the country's worst outbreak since the 1980s - will depend on rates reported from school next week.

New Zealand children have been enjoying school holidays this fortnight and the disease is often identified by school teachers and health practitioners.

Measles is prevented through immunisation, with the highest contraction rates in southern Auckland suburbs; some of the country's poorest.

The minister responsible, Julie Anne Genter, did not respond to requests for comment.