SDHB Medical Officer of Health Urges Southern 15-30 year olds to Have FREE Catch-Up Measles Vaccination

Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack is calling on young people aged 15 to 30 years who haven’t been immunised for measles to make it a priority to get a FREE catch-up MMR vaccine.

Measles is a serious disease that is about eight times more contagious than COVID-19. Getting immunised is the best way to protect young people, their whānau and community from catching and spreading measles.

Dr Jack’s call to Southern youth and their whānau is part of the national measles campaign, recently launched by the Ministry of Health, the focus of which is to improve the immunity against measles amongst all people in the 15 to 30 year age group.

During the campaign the Measles Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine will be offered free to anyone 15 to 30 years who has not yet been fully immunised against measles. This catch-up campaign for 15 to 30 year olds is a one dose campaign.

Dr Jack said, “Many people born in New Zealand between 1990 and 2005 are not fully protected because a higher than usual number of them did not have their scheduled childhood MMR vaccinations.

“In recent years Southern has experienced a significant measles outbreak in Queenstown and cases in Dunedin, Oamaru, Wanaka and Gore. In Southern towns and cities there were 72 cases of measles in 2019. New Zealand wide there were more than 2,000 cases in 2019, of which 41% were Pacific peoples and 24% Māori.

“This campaign has a strong focus on equity aiming to have all young people aged 15 to 30 years immunised against measles, reducing any gaps in immunisation between different groups, in particular Māori and Pacific peoples, those with disabilities, and those living rurally.

“People who have come from overseas, including the Pacific Islands, may have had different vaccines that may not fully protect them against measles, mumps and rubella,” she said.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the simplest steps you can take to stay healthy,” said WellSouth Medical Director, Dr Stephen Graham. “It helps protect you, your whānau and others from getting sick. Like the campaign suggests: Protect yourself from measles and be a guardian of the future.”

Dr Jack said, “If you haven’t been immunised, or you cannot find your childhood vaccination records and your GP does not have a copy of them, then the Ministry of Health recommends you have the MMR vaccine now.

“There are no additional safety concerns with having an extra dose. However, women who are pregnant cannot have the MMR vaccine,” she said.

Young people can get their FREE catch-up vaccinations now from General Practices across the Southern district.

“My message to the young people of Southern, and their whānau, is you are offered a free measles vaccine, take it. Be proactive. Ring your Doctor and book in for your FREE vaccine to protect yourself and your community from this serious disease,” Dr Jack said.

To find out more about measles and the MMR vaccination, visit:

The Southern Health website Or

The Ministry of Health’s website

Photo: Practice Nurse Emma Hughson of Mountain Lakes Medical explains the MMR vaccine to patient Fiona Sim.

All young people in Southern aged 15 to 30 years who haven’t been immunised for measles are being urged to make it a priority to get a FREE catch-up MMR vaccine.

Southerners Urged to Maintain Health and Hygiene Precautions and Get a Test if Unwell

With the long weekend coming up Southern DHB’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Jack is urging Southerners to maintain important health and hygiene precautions including being tested if you have any cold or flu symptoms, no matter how minor.

“The increase in cases we are seeing in managed isolation and the recent community cases is a reminder what a tricky virus this is and that we all need to remain vigilant.

“This virus is raging in many countries across the world and we know that the situation can change very quickly.”

Southern residents and visitors are reminded to stay at home and be tested if they have any cold or flu symptoms. COVID testing is free and available seven days a week. Call your GP or 0800 VIRUS 19 (0800 847 8719) to be referred for a test. You do not need to self-isolate after a test, but you should stay home until you are symptom-free as you should for any cough or cold.

“Hand hygiene, physical distancing and good cough etiquette remain simple yet important ways to keep yourself and the community safe by slowing the spread of any potential COVID-19 transmission. Although masks are not compulsory on public transport and on planes it is still advisable to wear them,” says Dr Jack.

“The public are also urged to record where they have been by using the NZ COVID – tracer app. Many people will be travelling around the country this weekend and it’s important to keep a track of where you’ve been in case our contact tracers need to contact you.”

A case under investigation on board a ship off Port Chalmers in Dunedin where a person on board had returned a weak positive result, has since been determined as a previously reported case in India in August. The investigation and precautionary measures taken are good examples of how Southern DHB’s Public Health team are working with the Ministry of Health to keep the public safe.

“This is reassuring for the public as we now know that the person is not considered to be infectious and poses no risk to the New Zealand public, and all other crew have tested negative.”

Southland Hospital’s new MRI Scanner Ready for Patients

Southland Hospital’s new $2 million MRI scanner is now in place and ready to scan its first patients today (Wednesday 30 September), Southern DHB Chief Executive Chris Fleming said today.

The new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner, which is manufactured in the Netherlands by Philips Healthcare, is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has been installed in Southland Hospital’s Radiology Department over the past seven weeks.

It replaces the MRI scanner that the Southland community fundraised to buy 16 years ago and, while it had served the community well over the years, the newly installed scanner is better equipped to meet modern needs.

Mr Fleming said the advantages of the new scanner include that it has a 70cm bore, which allows for larger patients to be scanned in Southland. The new machine will be more comfortable for patients, as it includes a special screen to help patients relax, follow directions, minimize motion, reduce stress and the need for sedation.

The new MRI will also provide greater image quality for scans and be 80% quieter to operate. The new BlueSeal magnet technology requires less helium than traditional MRIs, which is important in a site like Invercargill where helium is difficult and expensive to get on-site quickly.

“Installation of the Philips Ambition MRI scanner marks the successful completion of the first phase of the upgrade of Southland Hospital’s Radiology Department. Phase two, which is hoped to start in coming months, is to expand the treatment, consent and patient waiting areas to improve comfort, confidentiality and workflow in the MRI suite.”

Mr. Fleming thanked Pacific Radiology and St John’s for going “above and beyond” to assist Southern DHB with the urgent inpatient and outpatient scans during the seven week installation period.

While the Radiology Department had worked to reduce waiting lists prior to the downtime for installation, the assistance of Pacific Radiology and St John’s had been crucial for urgent scans during that time, he said.


Telehealth Success for Stewart Island Patient

Stewart Island provides a glimpse into a simpler, slower lifestyle and thanks to telehealth consultations, Oncology patient Gary Cocker can continue to enjoy this little piece of paradise 30 kilometres off the South Island.

Diagnosed with Stage IV (Metastatic) Lung Cancer in 2016, Gary has made many trips from Stewart Island to Southland Hospital for consultations and treatment.

However more recently, he has been enjoying virtual consultations with Southern DHB Oncologist Dr Blair McLaren from Dunedin and an Oncology Nurse based in Invercargill.

“Video sessions at home save at least three hours of travel, as well as time waiting for ferries. We also have to spend the whole day in Invercargill with accompanying costs, fuel and food,” says Gary.

“I enjoy the relative simplicity of the telehealth sessions. It was easy to set up and I felt surprisingly comfortable communicating in the format. I have met Blair on a number of occasions at the hospital, so we already had an established relationship. I think this definitely helped me feel comfortable in the sessions.”

Dr McLaren says telehealth is all about being flexible and finding out what works best for the patient.

“I would say there isn’t an average session. We have used VC to smart phones and home computers, VC to hubs both in other hospitals and NGO rooms, three way links between myself, patients, whānau and nurses, and telephone consults to all locations, including to a farmer who was herding bulls while I spoke to him!

“The big win is reducing travel so the time taken for an appointment is not dominated by the patient and family having to drive for hours to see us for a short appointment.”

The telehealth session will often have a nurse at the other end who can make notes for the patients and follows up afterwards to ensure they understood everything.

As for the future of Oncology telehealth? Dr McLaren has his sights set on expanding.

“I’d like to expand the number of sites we use as hubs to make sure everyone can benefit from telehealth. We need to make sure it is not just for those who have access to a personal computer.”

Flood Affected Southland Residents Urged To Boil Water Until Further Notice

The Medical Officer of Health is reminding flood affected Southland residents that it is important they continue to boil their drinking water because of the risk that contamination could lead to illness.

This boil water notice applies to residents in Gore and the Otama Water Supply scheme, plus the following rural schemes: Balmoral 1, Balmoral 2, Glenkinich, Moa Flat, Richardson North, Tuapeka East and Tuapeka West. The boil water notices also apply to all flood-affected Southland residents who use groundwater (e.g. bores that may be contaminated by floodwater), or flood-affected rainwater tanks.

The boil water notice for Mataura has been lifted.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Jack said that while boil water notices had been in place and publicised since last week’s flood, there were some people who hadn’t heard this advice and had become unwell after drinking contaminated water.

“It is very important that people in flood affected areas continue to boil their drinking water until further notice, to limit the health risk from drinking water supplies that may contain bugs that cause disease and other contaminants. Boiling the water will ensure that bugs that may be in the water supply will be killed.”

Affected residents should:

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute (electric jugs with a cut-off switch can be used)
  • Allow water to cool before using
  • Store cooled water in a clean container with a cover
  • Please check your local council website and the Southern Health website for the latest boil water advice and information

Dr Jack advised residents who had already consumed water that had not been boiled and experienced diarrhoea, vomiting and/or fever to contact Healthline (0800 611 116) or their doctor. Babies, young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems are more at risk of illness.

Boiled water should be used for drinking, making up baby formula, juices, cooking, making ice and washing fruit and vegetables. Hot water from the tap is not safe enough to use during a boil water advisory as the temperature of the hot water cylinder is not high enough to kill germs.

Adults, teens and older children may shower or bath with untreated water, as long as they avoid the face and do not swallow any water. However young children should be sponge bathed, instead of bathing in a tub because they are likely to swallow the bath water.

People with recent surgical wounds or chronic illness may wish to use bottle or boiled water for bathing until the advisory is lifted.

Only use boiled or bottled water for brushing your teeth. However, you can shave using tap water.

For more detailed advice go to the Southland Floods – public health and support information on the Southern Health website