RSE worker confirmed with measles in Hawke’s Bay

A Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) worker has been confirmed with measles in Hawke’s Bay – the first confirmed seasonal worker case in the region. 

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre said the employer of the worker had acted promptly to notify the district health board’s public health unit. 

All close contacts had been identified and were in isolation to avoid any further spread, she said. 

Dr Eyre said the worker, from Tonga, had arrived into the country recently and, based on symptoms, did not know they had measles at the time of travel. 

Dr Eyre said Hawke’s Bay had 38 recognised seasonal employers in Hawke’s Bay who employ over 5000 people from nine countries between October and April – the majority from Vanuatu and Samoa. 

“Our public health unit has been working proactively with our seasonal employers, including holding a workshop prior to arrivals about general health and wellbeing, including information about what to do in relation to measles. 

“We have had a great response to this workshop and have actively encouraged our RSE employers to provide lists of their workers and their immunisation status so we can put plans in place should there be an outbreak.”

Dr Eyre said two key prevention measures are vaccination before or soon after being exposed to a person with measles and keeping cases and non-immune contacts isolated from others to prevent spread. It was also important to ensure workers did not take the illness home with them. 

The DHB was working closely with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment as well as the Ministry of Health. 

“There is a willingness from the Ministry and other agencies to work together on the best measures to protect RSE workers against measles and our wider community.” 

Dr Eyre said Hawke’s Bay had high vaccination rates and this would help control any wider spread. 

If anyone is unsure of their immune status, they are strongly encouraged to check their records with their GP. 

Measles is a serious, highly infectious, potentially life-threatening disease that spreads easily via coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include a fever of 38.5C or higher along with a runny nose, cough, sore red eyes, followed by a rash three to five days later which starts on the head and spreads down the body. 

If you are feeling unwell and you think it might be measles, please stay at home and phone your doctor to avoid spreading the illness.  Your doctor will make the necessary arrangements to assess you safely without infecting other people.  You can also call Healthline for free advice on 0800 611-116. 

The Immunisation Advisory Centre also has up-to-date information about measles immunity and the MMR vaccine on their website: https://www.immune.org.nz/hot-topic/measles-overseas-and-new-zealand or visit www.ourhealthhb.nz 

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