Dangers of measles on children with cancer highlighted in New Zealand

New Zealand health authorities have released a new series of stories highlighting the well-founded fear of measles for young people with cancer.

Drawn from interviews with four young people, Protecting Children with Cancer from Measles tells of the real ways the measles outbreak changed their lives.

Children undergoing cancer treatment are particularly vulnerable to illnesses such as measles, as chemotherapy greatly reduces their immunity and can make their previous vaccinations ineffective. The New Zealand public health authorities say about half of children with low immunity infected by measles will die. An outbreak can severely restrict the way these children and their families go about their daily lives.

Launching the booklet and accompanying video, Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew said, “The only thing that we can do for them as a society is to make sure that as many healthy children as possible are immunised to stop the disease circulating in our communities.”

“As this booklet shows measles can also make previously healthy children very unwell and carries a high risk of complications.”

Teenager Leroy Beckett is being treated for lymphoblastic lymphoma and in this excerpt he discusses his fears about measles:

Children undergoing cancer treatment are particularly vulnerable to illnesses such as measles

‘You could get really paranoid about an illness like measles getting you because it could happen anytime but I don’t want to live my life like that,’ Leroy says.

‘I have checked that all my friends have been vaccinated and all of our family has been so I have a bit of a buffer around me. At any family dos, it’s the rule that there are no kids that have been sick and I’m lucky that there is just Tyson [his 21-year-old sister] and me in the family,’ he says.

‘I definitely want to encourage people that it is a good idea to get their kids immunised but I’m rather biased because I don’t want to die. I don’t see any negatives to it as far as pros versus cons: there is no question for me.’

For the full interview: https://bit.ly/OtgH0C

To view the video interview with Leroy Beckett: https://bit.ly/SoFaYK

Kerry and Niall Manning’s four-year-old daughter suffers from leukaemia. The following is an excerpt from their interview, highlighting their trauma:

Children undergoing cancer treatment are particularly vulnerable to illnesses such as measles

‘Measles has been a real worry,’ Kerry says. ‘We can send a letter to all the parents of children in the class asking them to let the school know if their child is sick but with the measles outbreak at the moment we are not prepared to take the risk that she could be exposed.’

‘Even when she does get to school she won’t be able to take part in all school activities like swimming or travelling on a bus because of the risk of infection. I thought schools wouldn’t let children start unless they were immunised but it’s just not the case.’

For the full interview: https://bit.ly/QTMNAH

To download a copy of Protecting Children with Cancer from Measles: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/protecting-children-cancer-measles

New Zealand’s measles outbreak began in mid 2011 and caused almost 650 cases, particularly in the Auckland area. The country hasn’t recorded a new case since June this year.

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