Two new measles cases – travellers urged to vaccinate

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NSW Health is asking anyone who recently visited The Children’s Hospital Westmead or two general practices in Fairfield and Liverpool to be alert to the symptoms of measles following diagnosis of two infants with measles infection.

The infants developed measles shortly after returning from south Asia. They are now isolated in hospital and responding to treatment. These bring to four the number of cases notified in NSW in March, all of whom caught their infection while visiting one of several Asian countries including Pakistan, India and The Philippines.

The infants visited the following locations while infectious:

  • Dr D Y K Tan’s Surgery, 39-41 Harris Street, Fairfield on Friday 23 March, from 1.00pm to 3.00pm
  • Liverpool Medical Centre, 94 Moore Street, Liverpool on Monday 26 March from 3.30pm to 6.00pm
  • The Children’s Hospital Westmead Emergency Department on Monday 26 March, from 6:30pm to 10.00pm, and Hunter Baillie Ward from 26 March at 10.00pm until Wednesday 28 March at 4.00pm.

The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically about 10 days but can be as long as 18 days so people should remain alert for symptoms until 16 April.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, said those most likely to be susceptible to measles are infants under 12 months of age who are too young to be vaccinated and young adults.

“People in the 20-40 year age bracket may have missed out on the full vaccination program for measles, which was changed in 1998, including a national school-based catch-up, and mistakenly believe they are protected against the disease,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Young adults are urged to visit their GP before travelling to Asia to receive a free measles vaccine if there is any doubt about their vaccination history.

“The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and highly effective protection against measles, and is available for free for those aged one to 52 from your GP.  If you are unsure whether you have had two doses, it is quite safe to have another dose.

“Families taking young infants to Asia are also urged to discuss vaccination with their GP before they travel, as the measles vaccine can be given earlier than the first birthday if they are likely to be exposed to measles while travelling.”

Protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, with the 2017-18 Immunisation Program budget approximately $130 million, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.

The latest Annual Immunisation Coverage Report shows vaccination rates in NSW are at their highest level ever, with more than 94 per cent of five year olds vaccinated against measles.

NSW children at one and five years of age have some of the highest measles vaccine uptake in Australia, boosted by programs including the:

  • Save the Date app campaign ($5.5 million invested since 2013)
  • Aboriginal Immunisation Health Worker program ($1.3 million annually)
  • New NSW Government laws that came in on 1 January preventing parents who object to vaccination from enrolling their children in preschools and early childhood centres.

Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.

Symptoms of measles include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

Dr Sheppeard said it was important for people to watch for symptoms, arrange to see the GP if concerned, and limit exposure to others until the GP has made a diagnosis.

“Our public health units are contacting people known to have been in contact with these latest cases to offer preventive injections, where appropriate,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“Vaccination is your best protection against this extremely contagious disease.”

For more information on measles, visit: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Measles_Factsheet.aspx.