24 March 2018

Measles reminder for Bali and other travellers and Perth residents

Western Australians heading overseas, including to Bali, are being reminded to make sure they have been appropriately vaccinated against measles, following a further case contracted on the island.

Medical Epidemiologist, Dr Gary Dowse, said there had been more than 20 separate importations of measles from Bali to WA since 2013, including seven cases last year and two cases in the past week, which is more than for any other overseas travel destination.

“Unfortunately, it is not unusual for Australians to be infected with measles overseas, including in Bali,  but the increase in the number of cases in WA and other states in recent weeks suggests there may be an increased risk of catching measles in Bali at present,” Dr Dowse said. 

“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 added that every imported measles case was 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.

Travellers returning from Bali (or other countries, especially in Southeast Asia) who developed a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within two to three weeks of returning home, should consult their doctor.

Dr Dowse said public health staff had also 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 case at the following locations in Perth, with dates/times as indicated:

  • Connolly Drive Medical Centre in Butler on Saturday 17 March around 10:15 –11:15 am; Sunday 18 March around 8:30 – 9:45 am; and Tuesday 20 March around 9:00-10:30 am.
  • Butler Health Pharmacy on Saturday 17 March around 10:45-11:30 am.
  • Joondalup Hospital Emergency Department on Sunday 18 March between 9:15am to 5:00pm.

In addition, people who were at other locations visited by the two cases confirmed earlier this week also need to remain vigilant – see http://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Media-releases/2018/Measles-alert-for-Bentley-and-Royal-Perth-Hospitals-and-Perth-Airport.

Dr Dowse said anyone who thinks they might have measles should call ahead so that they can be isolated when they arrive 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,” he said.

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. 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.

ENDS

Media contact: 9222 4333

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