Official advice for New Zealanders living and travelling overseas

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The Ministry of Health is strongly recommending all people travelling overseas (to any destination) are fully immunised against measles with two doses of MMR vaccine before they go. Current MMR Immunisation rates in New Zealand mean that a non-immune person infected with measles overseas may spread the disease to others within New Zealand on their return. We need at least 95% of people to be immunised to stop an outbreak. This also protects babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and severely immunocompromised people.

About measles
Measles is a highly infectious airborne disease. Measles is almost entirely preventable through vaccination.

  • Pneumonia (infection of lungs): as many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • Encephalitis (swelling of the brain): About 1 child out of 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.
  • Death: Nearly 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurological complications.
  • Complications during pregnancy: Measles may cause pregnant women who have not had the MMR vaccine to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

Since the beginning of 2024, many countries around the world have reported cases of measles including:  United Kingdom, Netherlands, Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal, Switzerland, Togo, Nigeria, Morocco, Taiwan, Israel, Sri Lanka, United States of America, Canada, Brazil, and Australia.

There are currently significant measles outbreaks overseas including in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Yemen, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, and Pakistan. Measles spreads rapidly and may become a risk to travellers in places not included in this list. Please check the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for information on outbreaks internationally:  

Children who have not yet been immunised are at greatest risk of the disease and the Ministry of Health recommends that infants aged 6-11 months travelling to countries with a measles outbreak be given MMR vaccine before their travel. While measles immunisation is usually given at age 12 months and 15 months in New Zealand, the MMR vaccine can be given to children as young as 6 months. Because the vaccine's effectiveness is lower for babies under 12 months of age, if they are given the vaccine, they will still need two further doses of the vaccine at 12 months and 15 months for long-term protection. Two doses of MMR vaccine give long-lasting protection to at least 98 percent of people.

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