Measles hits Waikato schools, Northland


A second Waikato school is in lockdown as a measles outbreak continues to spread.

Fairfield College has closed its doors to pupils and teachers who can't prove they've been vaccinated after a student was confirmed to have the contageous disease.

Fairfield Principal Richard Crawford says just 25 of its 670 students have arrived in school today as parents scramble to find documentation, and almost half of its 50 staff have had to stay away as they confirm their immunisation status.

Waikato District Health Board's Medical Officer of Health has advised that all pupils and staff must stay away until Monday 23rd unless they are able to prove they've been immunised.

Mr Crawford is following the advice but admits it's a disruption.

"It's a disruption at home and obviously within the school for students, with assessments and things we've had to postpone, various sports events. 

"The main disruption is to learning programmes and how we're going to have to be flexible in creating opportunities for students to catch up with things they will miss through no fault of their own."

Measles has caused a stir at Morrinsville College earlier this week, and now Northland is facing a "very possible" outbreak.

At the moment the region has four confirmed cases, and one under investigation, with more cases expected in coming days.

"It's concerning because we know that the immunisation rates in Northland are low, and if people are exposed to the measles virus, there's a real chance we will have a large outbreak within Northland," says public health physician at the Northland District Health Board Dr Viriginia McLaughlin.

"We are strongly urging people to get vaccinated. Vaccinate your children. Check your own immunisation status, make sure your immunisations are up to date."

Dr McLaughlin says immunisation is really important in protecting both yourself and the community, as measles is very easily spread.

"People need to be aware that if they are actually exposed and they are not immune, haven't had their two-course vaccination of MMR, they will need to go into isolation for 14 days, and this can mean significant periods away from school and work."

While research suggests only one in 10 will require a visit to the hospital, statistics from recent outbreaks show hospitalisation from measles is actually more likely.