Measles epidemic: All eyes on Tauranga as students gather for AIMS Games

The Mayor of Tauranga is confident health officials are well prepared for the AIMS Games amid the measles outbreak. 

Thousands of intermediate-aged students from 368 schools are participating in the six-day event, but three have already pulled out. 

Mayor Greg Brownless is leaving the handling of the infectious disease to the experts.

"After all, our airport's still open," he told Newshub. "I think it's just one of those things - hopefully it's been contained."

Health officials in Bay of Plenty are confident everything is being done to prevent the spread of measles too. All of the participating schools have provided a list of unimmunised students.

"That won't protect them as such, but if we do get any cases that makes it easier for us - we get notified of any suspected cases of measles and we do our best to prevent the spread," said Medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack.

Officials will be immediately notified of any suspected cases.

"We do our best to prevent the spread by isolating anyone who's not been vaccinated."

Dr Phil Shoemack says everything is being done to control the situation.

"If we start cancelling one-off events we'd have to ground all the buses, we'd have to stop Air New Zealand flying around the country and put in roadblocks to stop people travelling. There's a risk involved with everything, but we believe that risk is acceptable."

The AIMS Games have been held annually in Tauranga since 2012. Brownless says it's not the economic benefits for the city he most looks forward to.

"Some kids and their families might spend a little bit of money here and there, but it's just the idea of bringing kids together, encouraging them in their sporting and health activities - I think that's the main benefit of it."

Tauranga/Mt Maunganui.
Tauranga/Mt Maunganui. Photo credit: Getty

The city has become so stretched for accommodation, some students are staying in retirement villages. 

"It brings youth and our seniors together and they all have a great time."

According to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service 861 people in the city have contracted the disease, which can be fatal. There have been more than 1000 cases nationwide, six ski staff from The Remarkables in Queenstown among the latest. 

An immunisation expert is confident the country can get a handle on the epidemic however.

More than 400 people turned out to Waitakere Hospital's pop-up clinic on Saturday which was aimed at those not enrolled with a GP.

Immunisation Advisory Centre's Nikki Turner says it is a heartening result.

"So long as New Zealanders are very aware that we have measles but we can get rid of it, and they continue to respond like this, we will close the immunity gap and have effective herd immunity."

She says many people were not aware that they weren't immunised, and are now taking action.

"Many people were just unaware they weren't vaccinated, and now they are actually actively seeking out vaccinations. Go us. Good on New Zealand. We should be able to control measles if we keep this up."



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