Doctors move clinics to carparks in wake of measles

Author: Ingrid Torjesen
Doctors move clinics to carparks in wake of measles

Doctors in New Zealand have taken the unusual step of seeing patients unimmunised against measles in carparks and other outside areas in an attempt to halt spread of measles.

The measure has been implemented to reduce the chance of the disease spreading in confined surgeries and waiting rooms.

Dr Phil Schroeder, a GP who is co-ordinating the community approach under the Canterbury Primary Response Group, told Morning Report at Radio NZ that it was important patients who thought they had measles phoned ahead as clinics did not want them in the waiting rooms for fear of spreading the disease.

"There are all sorts of novel ways that practices come up with being able to assess patients, most often we will actually try to do an initial assessment in people's cars rather than bring them into the facility which then requires quite a lot of cleaning and infection control."

The country has been hit by a severe outbreak, described as the worst “in years” centred around the Canterbury region of the South Island. So far 27 cases have been confirmed and there are a further 20 suspected cases.

Health authorities say around 100,000 people need to be vaccinated and the vaccine is having to be flown in from elsewhere in the country as stocks in the region are running low.

Dr Caroline McElnay, director of public health at the ministry of health, said: "The first priority for Canterbury is to reach children aged 12 months to 13 years who have never been immunised and also children and adults aged 14 years to 28 years who have never been immunised."

She added: "A single dose of MMR typically confers 95% of people with immunity. People who have had one dose of MMR in the past and people who have had a single measles vaccine are therefore considered to have a good level of protection."

Anyone who is sick is being told to stay away from work, school and public places, to help prevent putting other people at risk: “This also applies if you or a family member aren’t fully immunised and may have been in contact with someone with measles,” McElnay said.

"By isolating yourself you will help protect vulnerable people including babies, pregnant women, cancer patients and others who are unable to be immunised and for whom the impact of the disease can be devastating."