Wellington: Two unborn babies have died after their mothers contracted measles amidst the worst outbreak of the illness in New Zealand in two decades.
The deaths were announced by the Auckland regional public health service on Tuesday, who said overall five pregnant women had contracted the illness in the region, and two had lost unborn babies.
Dr Karen Bartholomew, director of health outcomes for the Waitematā and Auckland district health boards, told a media conference although it could not be certain the foetuses died due to the illness, their mothers were undergoing treatment after contracting measles.
“These are very sad events for these two women and their families. We do know that measles can cause pregnancy complications including miscarriage and pre-term birth,” Bartholomew said, adding that pregnant women were at no greater risk of contracting the illness than other New Zealanders.
Since the start of the year more than 1,300 people have contracted measles in Auckland, especially in the more deprived areas south of the city centre. However health experts say the outbreak peaked in late August and its spread is now on the decline.
Māori and Pacific Islanders have contracted the illness at much higher rates than other New Zealanders during the recent outbreak, and the ministry of health deployed nurses to undertake a widespread vaccination programme in churches, schools and shopping centres in South Auckland.
A report by the Auckland regional coordination centre also found a high incidence of pre-schoolers contracting the illness were responsible for large numbers of hospitalisations, with 30-40 per cent of those contracting measles spending time in hospital, compared to the more usual rate of 10 per cent.
“Young children are very susceptible to complications from measles such as pneumonia,” Bartholomew said.
Around 52 per cent of children under the age of five who contracted measles were hospitalised during the outbreak, the report found.