A sporting event which will see thousands of students from Auckland head to Tauranga has been labeled “a dream come true” for measles in the wake of the current outbreak.
The Anchor AIMS Games will see 11,500 school kids from New Zealand, Asia, and the Pacific compete in 23 different sports in Tauranga from September 8-13.
As the measles outbreak continues to worsen in Auckland, experts and parents have called for unvaccinated students to be banned from the event – despite organizers saying it isn’t necessary. It comes after New Zealand Rugby League chose to cancel its secondary school competition in south Auckland’s Takanini in light of the outbreak.
As of Tuesday, there have been 975 confirmed cases of measles across the country, with 812 cases in Auckland alone.
A letter from Toi Te Ora Public Health, posted on the AIMS games website, said no children with obvious measles symptoms should be included – such as those with a runny nose or fever. But it went on to state that unvaccinated children were still allowed to attend.
It said schools should request proof of vaccination of at least one measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine for students and adults under 50, to enable the school to act quickly if someone began to present symptoms.
“This will allow you to know which students and adults are vaccinated, and who is not, so the manager can isolate any non-immune person at the first sign of illness.”
But Tauranga locals said those unvaccinated should be banned from attending.
“I’m far from impressed they are still allowing the games to go ahead with teams from Auckland,” concerned mum Aimee Torrie told Stuff.
“I’m all for the games but think it should be either moved to another date or all kids who have not had their vaccines should be banned from attending the games.”
Torrie said with the number of children attending, it was a quick and sure way for the virus to spread throughout the country and overseas.
A general practitioner from Tauranga said on Facebook that she was feeling nervous.
“We don’t want a measles outbreak here. And this a really good way to create one.”
The GP said the advice given by health officials was not reassuring as it could take up to 14 days for the disease to develop after exposure.
“So there could be kids arriving here who initially feel fine but then get sick during the tournament and start shedding the virus left right and center.
“For a highly infectious disease like measles, the AIMS Games is a dream come true.”
Others said the event was putting locals in Tauranga at risk of the disease – especially babies who were not old enough to be immunized.
Tournament director Vicki Semple said organizers had been “totally up front” with all schools attending the event and had given them as much information as possible so they could make informed decisions.
Banning students who are not vaccinated wasn’t necessary, she said.
Semple said they had been in constant communication with health officials and were doing their “utmost” to ensure the safety of all athletes.
Despite this, organizers have received conflicting opinions from the public.
“We’ve had huge amounts of feedback from the Bay of Plenty public and across our wider sporting community, both vehemently opposed to the tournament going ahead and passionately advocating for it to continue, along with varied responses in between.
“It’s an incredibly emotive issue and it’s certainly taken up a massive amount of preparation time but we’re confident we’re getting the very latest and most relevant advice to make decisions.”
Source - Stuff