18 April 2019

Measles alert following a case in a returned traveller

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to the risk of measles following a confirmed measles illness in a person who travelled to Perth from Thailand and visited several public areas in the Perth Metro this week. 

Children and adults who have been inadvertently exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not already immune. Individuals should remain vigilant for the onset of measles symptoms for the next three weeks if they are not immune to measles from previous infection or prior vaccination, and were present at the following places during the stated times:

Sunday 14 April:    International Flight - Thai AirwaysTG677, departing Bangkok 0720, arriving Perth International Airport 1505. 

Sunday 14 April:    Perth International Airport, Terminal 1

Monday, 15 April:  Alexander Heights Shopping Centre, 1230-1330h

Tuesday, 16 April: Transperth train Greenwood Station to Elizabeth Quay Station 0655-0800h

Tuesday, 16 April:  Transperth train Elizabeth Quay Station to Greenwood Station 1015-1100h

Tuesday, 16 April: Westralia Square 0750-1030h

Tuesday 16 April:  Train Elizabeth Quay to Greenwood Stn 1017-1110h

Tuesday, 16 April:  Kingsway City Shopping Centre 1200-1330h

There is no current risk of acquiring measles from visiting these areas as the potential exposure to measles occurred only on the dates and times specified.

Persons born prior to 1966 are usually immune to measles because they had the illness as a child. People born during or after 1966 are requested to check that they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially if they plan to travel overseas. If they are not sure if they have had two doses of measles vaccine, they should see their doctor for a vaccination before going abroad.

A new adult measles vaccination program was announced on 26 March for Western Australians born during or after 1966 (this refers to those aged between 20-53 years in 2019) who have not already received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine. Eligible adults can receive this free vaccine from their GP, Aboriginal Medical Service, travel clinic or community health immunisation clinics.

Director of Communicable Disease Control, Dr Paul Armstrong said “Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze. Every 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, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women who are not already immune through vaccination or previous infection.”  

“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 Armstrong said. 

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

 “Measles virus survives less than two hours in the air or on objects and surfaces and is inactivated rapidly in the presence of sunlight or heat.  It is generally considered safe for non-immune individuals to enter a room 30 minutes after a measles case has left the area.”

People with measles typically develop symptoms approximately 10 days after being exposed to the virus, but this can vary from 7 to 18 days. Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash three or four days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

“Anyone who has had a potential exposure to measles, and who develops a fever with these other symptoms should see a doctor. It is important to call ahead of travelling to a clinic or Emergency Department so that they can be isolated from infecting other patients and staff when they arrive,” she said.

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.

Parents are urged to make sure their children receive their measles vaccinations on schedule. Measles vaccine is currently given to children at 12 and 18 months of age.

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.

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

To learn more about measles, visit the HealthyWA website (external site).


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