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Global importation and population risk factors for measles in New Zealand: a case study for highly immunized populations

  • D. T. S. HAYMAN (a1), J. C. MARSHALL (a1), N. P. FRENCH (a1), T. E. CARPENTER (a2), M. G. ROBERTS (a3) and T. KIEDRZYNSKI (a4)...

As endemic measles is eliminated through immunization, countries must determine the risk factors for the importation of measles into highly immunized populations to target control measures. Despite eliminating endemic measles, New Zealand suffers from outbreaks after introductions from abroad, enabling us to use it as a model for measles introduction risk. We used a generalized linear model to analyze risk factors for 1137 measles cases from 2007 to June 2014, provide estimates of national immunity levels, and model measles importation risk. People of European ethnicity made up the majority of measles cases. Age is a positive risk factor, particularly 0–2-year-olds and 5–17-year-old Europeans, along with increased wealth. Pacific islanders were also at greater risk, but due to 0–2-year-old cases. Despite recent high measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine immunization coverage, overall population immunity against measles remains ~90% and is lower in people born between 1982 and 2005. Greatest measles importation risk is during December, and countries predicted to be sources have historical connections and highest travel rates (Australia and UK), followed by Asian countries with high travel rates and higher measles incidences. Our results suggest measles importation due to travel is seeding measles outbreaks, and immunization levels are insufficient to continue to prevent outbreaks because of heterogeneous immunity in the population, leaving particular age groups at risk.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence: D. T. S. Hayman, EpiLab, Infectious Diseases Research Centre, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. (Email:
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Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
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