New Zealand measles outbreak continues to grow

Public health officials in Auckland, New Zealand, recently warned that an outbreak of measles that has infected at least 94 people could spread to hundreds more.

Mark Jacobs, the Health Ministry’s director of public health, said that all of New Zealand is at risk and urged for more of the population to be vaccinated, according to Stuff.co.nz.

The outbreak has already spread from Auckland to neighboring towns like Waikato, where eight more infections were reported, and Waipa, where schools were put on alert after several teenagers were exposed.

"But this isn't an issue that is just restricted to Auckland and Waikato,” Jacobs said, Stuff.co.nz reports. “There is a risk that we can see other cases of measles around the country. Nowhere in New Zealand is immune from the risk.”

At least eight people in Auckland are currently under quarantine and five who contracted the disease have been hospitalized. Almost all of the cases are among the unimmunized, including a cluster of several people associated with the Ranui Baptist Church, according to Immune.org.nz.

"Measles is highly infectious; it is much easier to catch than influenza, Jacobs said, according to Stuff.co.nz. “If you have no immunity, there is an extremely high chance you will catch this disease if you come into contact with someone who has it.

"The vast majority of children in Auckland who have caught measles, including the ones who have been hospitalized because they have become so sick, are not immunized. This is testament to the vaccine's effectiveness."

Jacobs did not say whether or not there would be an increased risk of contagion during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in September, when an influx of travelers are expected in the country.