Canterbury Health Laboratories has been designated the World Health Organization (WHO) National Measles and Rubella Laboratory (NMRL) for New Zealand since March 2005.


The NMRL's aim is to provide laboratory support for measles/rubella outbreak investigation and confirmation of measles/rubella cases using WHO recommended methods.


The specific objectives are to:

Provide laboratory support for measles/rubella surveillance and outbreak investigation
Provide laboratory confirmation of serologically identified measles/rubella cases
Collect samples from clinically suspected measles cases to identify measles/rubella virus strains
Participate in the WHO regional laboratory network for the Western Pacific region


Monitoring measles/rubella virus strains is an important tool in the identification of related outbreaks and helps with the World Health Organization’s commitment to eradicate the measles and rubella viruses globally.


Patients having the suspicion of being infected with measles or rubella virus should not visit their GP without prior telephone contact since both viruses are highly contagious and can easily be trasmitted in the waiting room.





Measles warning for Christchurch


Friday February 9, 2018

Community and Public Health is investigating a second case of measles in Christchurch.

An 11-year-old child is recovering at home after contracting the virus in a general practice waiting room.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Alistair Humphrey, says the child contracted measles after coming into contact with a 30-year-old man who contracted the virus overseas. The man has now recovered from the virus.

"These are the first cases of measles in Canterbury since May 2017. Community and Public Health staff are now working to contain any potential spread."

Investigations have shown the child attended two days of school, a church service, ate in a restaurant and played in a popular inner-city playground before they were diagnosed. They also attended their medical practice.

Dr Humphrey says the people that the child came into contact with during those occasions are potentially at risk of contracting measles.

"We are working with the medical centre and school to ensure people who were exposed to the virus in those locations are contacted. We also need to warn those who were at the church, restaurant and the playground that they have been exposed."

The child attended a service at Our Lady of Victories Church at 6pm on 3 February 2018. They were at Nando's Restaurant in Sydenham between 5pm and 7pm on Waitangi Day (6 February 2018) and the Margaret Mahy Playground for a short period between 5pm and 10pm.

Dr Humphrey says there is absolutely no risk at all to anyone who has been to the church for another service or attended the restaurant or Margaret Mahy Playground outside of those times.

"Anyone who was at that church service or at the Margaret Mahy Playground or Nando's in Sydenham after 5pm on Waitangi Day is potentially at risk. If you fall into that category and feel unwell, our advice is for you to stay at home and call your GP for medical advice. Staying at home is important as you may be contagious."

The early symptoms of measles include fever, cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and white spots inside the mouth. After three to five days a rash may appear.

Dr Humphrey says the re-emergence of the virus is a timely reminder to everyone in our community to ensure that they are fully immunised.

"The scheduled vaccinations are free from your general practice and some pharmacies. Measles is a very serious illness and we need to work together to ensure the South Island returns to its measles-free status."


  • Measles is highly contagious - if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.

  • It can take up to 3 weeks for symptoms to appear, you should phone your family doctor/general practice team 24/7 for #carearoundtheclock if you are concerned. If it's after-hours a nurse will answer the call and advise what to do and where to go if you need to be seen.

  • Measles cannot be treated once you get it so the only way to protect yourself is to be fully vaccinated.  People are only considered immune if they have received two doses of MMR vaccine and/or have had a measles illness previously and/or were born before 1969.

  • Adults born before 1969 are considered immune to measles because the virus is so infectious and a measles vaccine was not available in New Zealand until 1969.



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