09 January 2020

New measles alert for Perth

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to the risk of measles following a confirmed measles case in a person who visited two public venues in Perth last week.

The Health Department’s Senior Medical Advisor Communicable Disease Control Dr Clare Huppatz warned people without measles immunity to remain vigilant for the onset of symptoms for the next three weeks if they were at the following venues –

  • South Perth foreshore park on Thursday 2 January between 4.30pm and 8pm 
  • Secret Harbour Shopping Centre on Saturday 4 January between 10.30am and 12.00pm (midday)        

Dr Huppatz said there was no current or ongoing risk of acquiring measles from visiting these venues – potential exposure to measles occurred only on the dates and times specified.

“However, every measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread,” she said.

Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread when infected people cough and sneeze. Being in the same room in, or soon after, someone with measles can result in infection in people who are not immune.

Early symptoms typically develop approximately 10 to 18 days after exposure and 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.  

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

Dr Huppatz advised Western Australians to check that their measles immunisations were up to date and urged parents to make sure their children received measles vaccinations on schedule – at 12 and 18 months.

“Western Australians born before 1966 are usually immune to measles because they had the illness as children,” she said. 

“However, people aged 20-54 may need a Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) booster vaccination as they are likely to have only received a single dose of vaccine recommended at the time. It is also an important travel vaccine for those planning to visit countries with measles.

“Two doses of MMR are now known to be required for optimal immunity.”

There is a new funded adult measles immunisation campaign offering two doses of vaccine for all people born from 1966 who are not immunised. Vaccination can be provided by your GP or your usual immunisation provider.

Dr Huppatz reminded anyone who thinks they may have measles to call ahead to a clinic or Emergency Department so that they can be isolated from infecting other patients and staff when they arrive.

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

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

Media contact: 9222 4333

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