About one New Zealander in every thousand has MS.

We estimate there are over 4,000 people in New Zealand diagnosed with MS. MS is more common in:

  • Young adults: symptoms usually appear between the ages of 20 and 50 with a peak in the early 30’s. Currently, in New Zealand, the average age at diagnosis is 37 years old.
  • Women: women are affected approximately three times more often than men.
  • People in cooler climates: generally MS becomes more common the further away from the equator you are. Thus, the prevalence of MS is much higher in regions such as the South Island of NZ, Scotland and Canada than it is in tropical and subtropical areas.
  • Those exposed to viral infections: among many possibilities, exposure early in life to viral infection (in particular, the Epstein-Barr Virus) may be a required condition for MS.
  • Near relatives: those with a close relative with MS have a slightly increased risk. Having a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) with MS increases the chances of having it from approximately 1 in every 1,000 people to 30 in every 1,000. However, it is important to note that the great majority of people with an affected first-degree relative do not develop MS.

MS is not contagious or infectious. It is not possible to contract it from close contact with a person with MS.

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