South Auckland children's hospital Kidz First opens measles isolation ward

South Auckland children's hospital Kidz First has opened an isolation ward specifically for youngsters with measles, following what it describes as a significant outbreak. 

Counties Manukau is one of the worst affected regions with more than 300 confirmed cases recently - half the national total. 

The 12-bed isolation ward has been opened to cope with the influx of up to three children a day.

Patients in the ward, staff and parents are being asked to wear masks to stop measles spreading. 

Measles isolation follows overcrowding at wards in Middlemore and Auckland' children's hospitals.

Three babies in the last two months have been admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit, fighting for their lives. Children have also been in intensive care at Auckland's Starship Hospital.

Over 600 cases of the highly-contagious, preventable disease have been reported nationwide during the current outbreak, with around 40 percent hospitalised. In recent years, New Zealand's vaccination rates among babies and toddlers have been declining.

The ARPHS and Ministry of Health have recommended for all 12-month-old children in Auckland to receive their first measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

Eligibility for the MMR vaccine was widened earlier this year, including unvaccinated people aged between one and 28, caregivers of infants up to 12 months and people aged between 29 and 50 with children.

Thirty-seven new measles case in Auckland have been reported since Monday.