19 April 2018

Measles alert following further cases in travellers and Perth residents

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to an increased risk of measles, following notification of four additional cases in the past week.

There have now been nine measles cases confirmed in Perth residents since mid-March, including four adults, four infants too young for vaccination, and one teenager.

WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse said that seven of the nine cases were infected while travelling overseas, including two infants exposed to an infectious case on international flights from India and Kuala Lumpur. The imported cases have been infected in Bali, Thailand, India and Malaysia.

In addition, two cases have been infected in WA – one in a hospital Emergency Department attended by one of the imported cases, and the other probably somewhere in the Kalamunda area.

The case from the Kalamunda area has no travel history and no identifiable source of infection. This suggests that there has been an undiagnosed case in that area, meaning there could be a risk that other people might have also been infected.

“With high vaccination coverage, naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for around 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks still occur – associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas,” Dr Dowse said.

“Every imported measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread – including to those most vulnerable to infection such as infants too young to be vaccinated, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.”

Dr Dowse said public health staff had been providing information to people who were potentially exposed to the most recent cases where they were known, but it was not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.

People could have been exposed to the most recent cases at the following locations in Perth, with dates/times as indicated:

  • the arrivals area of Perth International Airport on the afternoon of Friday 30 March
  • St John Medical (Apollo Health) in Cannington during the early afternoon of Saturday 31 March
  • Joondalup line train from Clarkson to Leederville and return (morning and afternoon) on Tuesday 3rd April
  • Quinns Mindarie Super Clinic in Quinns Rocks around midday on 6 April
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Emergency Department on the evening of Saturday 7 April and the morning of Thursday 12 April
  • St Luke Medical Centre in Karrinyup during late mornings of Tuesday 10 April and Wednesday 11 April
  • Joondalup Hospital Emergency Department on Monday 9 April (mid-afternoon) and Friday 13 April (mid-morning to late afternoon)
  • Craigie Medical Centre in Craigie on Wednesday 11 April in the early evening
  • Mead Medical in Forrestfield mid-morning on Saturday 14 April
  • Hale Road Medical in Forrestfield around midday on Sunday 15 April
  • Princess Margaret Hospital Emergency Department during the early afternoon of  Sunday 15 April.

In addition, travellers could have been exposed on the following Malindo Air flights:

  • flight OD 272 , departing Amritsar, India on 29 March  at 22:30, arriving in Kuala Lumpur on 30 March 2018, around 07:00
  • flight OD 151, departing Kuala Lumpur on 30 March around 08:25, arriving in Perth on 30 March around 14:10.

Anyone who thinks they might have measles should call ahead so that they can be isolated immediately on arrival at the GP surgery or Emergency Department, to prevent infecting other patients and staff.

Measles is contagious for about four days before and after the development of the rash. Children and adults who have been unwittingly exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not immune.

Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash about three days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases. Around 40 per cent of cases require hospitalisation and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.

There have been around 50 deaths from measles in the past two years in Europe associated with outbreaks occurring there, serving as a reminder of the seriousness of the disease, even in developed countries.

Measles vaccine is currently given to children at 12 and 18 months of age. People born during or after 1966 should make sure they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially before travelling overseas, including to Bali and other popular tourist destinations in Asia and Southeast Asia. If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, they should see their doctor for a dose before they leave.

People who are concerned they may have measles, and require medical advice after hours, can contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.


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