Two heartbroken New Zealand mothers have been forced to say goodbye to their babies that they never got a chance to meet. 

The two mums both contracted measles during a current measles outbreak in New Zealand. Unfortunately, both babies died in the womb.

Although it is uncertain if the babies died of the illness, measles is known to cause pregnancy complications including miscarriage and pre-term birth. Indeed, health officials report that this is most likely the reason for the deaths. However, it is unclear how far along the women were.

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Measles outbreak in New Zealand

The two pregnant mums-to-be are only two of the dozens who are currently being treated for measles in Auckland. In fact, the current measles outbreak in New Zealand is the worst they have seen in over two decades. More than 1,300 people have contracted the illness in Auckland since the beginning of 2019.

In addition to the two women, three other pregnant women in the Auckland area are being treated for measles as well.

Current measles outbreak in Perth

It’s not just New Zealand where measles is a major concern. Just this week Western Australian health authorities issued a warning of a measles outbreak in Perth’s southern suburbs, with five confirmed cases reported in the Rockingham area in the past week. One of the five confirmed cases is an infant under the age of 12 months.

Measles in Australia

In Australia, there have been 172 confirmed cases of measles in 2019 (so far). This includes two infants in Sydney and one baby in Melbourne.

According to the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance,

Australia has also experienced an increase in reported measles cases in 2019, with the year to date total already close to surpassing the 2018 full year total. This increase in cases is due to the importation of measles via international travel from those countries experiencing outbreaks.”

Measles most dangerous for infants, children and pregnant women

Measles is an awful disease that can have devastating consequences, especially in infants, children and babies still in the womb. In addition to causing pre-term labour, miscarriage and other pregnancy complications, children and babies who contract measles are more at risk of measles complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Most of us received the MMR vaccine when we were younger. However, in some instances, this immunity can wear off. If you are concerned about your immunity status, especially if you are pregnant, speak to your GP. Your doctor can do a blood test to determine your immunity. This is routine practice during your first prenatal appointment.

Symptoms of measles

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the signs and symptoms of measles appear approximately seven to 14 days after a person is infected.

Symptoms typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and a rash.  The rash starts on the face, spreads down to the body and lasts for 4-7 days. Measles spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and is more infectious than influenza and tuberculosis. 

‘Get vaccinated. It’s really important’

In Australia, the majority of measles cases are due to unvaccinated individuals becoming infected while travelling to countries in which measles is either common or there are outbreaks occurring. As measles is highly contagious, these people can then spread the disease to others, causing outbreaks, often before they are aware that they have the virus.

Kristine Macartney, the Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research, says,

If we take our guard down, if we let immunisation rates fall, we will see measles. And we will see more measles than we should ever see. Get vaccinated. It’s really important.”

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Author

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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