24 July 2018

Measles reminder for overseas travellers and Perth residents

Western Australians heading overseas are being reminded to make sure they have been appropriately vaccinated against measles, following a recent infection in a WA resident who had been travelling in the Philippines.

Medical Advisor, Dr Paul Effler, said that unfortunately, it was not unusual for Australians, especially young adults, to be infected with measles overseas. 

“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 Effler 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 Effler 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 may have been exposed to the most recent case at the following locations in Perth, with dates/times as indicated:

Friday 20 July:

  • Flight SQ 215 from Singapore to Perth.  

Saturday 21 July:

  • Perth International Airport arrivals, midnight to 1.00am
  • Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Department, 10.30am – 5.30pm
  • Lucky Chans in Northbridge, 7.00 – 8.00pm
  • Rosemount Hotel to watch Kimbra, 8.00pm until midnight

Saturday 21 July/ Sunday 22 July (overnight):

  • Seasons of Perth Hotel - Perth

Sunday 22 July:

  • Halo restaurant in South Perth 10.00 – 11.30am

Travellers returning from overseas, particularly Southeast Asia who developed a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within three weeks of returning home, should consult their doctor.

Dr Effler 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 30 per cent of cases require a hospital admission and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.

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. 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.

For further information, visit the HealthyWA website (external site)


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