Asia-Pacific

New Zealand prepares for major measles outbreak with free vaccinations

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New Zealand's South Island health authorities are preparing for a major measles vaccination drive.

A major vaccination drive will get underway in the South Island of New Zealand as health authorities respond to the latest measles outbreak which was confirmed recently and is expected to spread across the South Island's Canterbury region.

The vaccination program would see 100,000 doses of the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine distributed for free, Canterbury Primary Response Group's Phil Schroeder told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday.

Parents to stop being 'complacent' with vaccination
Parents to stop being 'complacent' with vaccination
Getty Images

On Monday the Canterbury District Health Board confirmed 25 cases, adding in a statement that it expected the numbers of measles expected to rise.

Schroeder said treatment during measles outbreaks normally focused on increasing childhood vaccinations but a third of the current cases were in the 29-50 age group.

Health Minister David Clark said Tuesday that vaccination was the "best protection against this serious and highly infectious virus that spreads very easily from person to person".

The number of recorded measles infections globally doubled to 229,000 last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in February.

But the agency estimated that less than a tenth of the cases are reported to health authorities, and that the real number in 2018 exceeded two million.

Measles remains a significant cause of death among young children around the world. The highly contagious disease is spread by coughing, sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nose or throat secretions.

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