04 August 2017

Measles alert for Perth

Doctors and parents are being alerted to an increased risk of measles, following the confirmed diagnosis of an unvaccinated secondary school student who returned to Perth after being infected overseas. 

Prior to the diagnosis – and while infectious to others – the student attended Perth Waldorf School in Bibra Lake. A substantial number of students exposed at the school have not been vaccinated against measles. The school has a metropolitan-wide catchment making it likely additional cases of measles will occur in Perth over the coming weeks.

The campus where the student attends also includes pre-school and primary school students. Although contact between secondary students and other age groups is thought to be minimal, incidental exposure of younger students cannot be excluded.

The school has been working closely with Public Health staff in notifying parents of the potential exposure.

Prior to diagnosis, the case was also in the Midland area on the afternoon of Tuesday 25 July 25 and in the early afternoon of Sunday 30 July 30, and may have exposed people there.

Measles is highly contagious. Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Paul Armstrong said approximately 9 out of 10 susceptible persons in close contact with a measles patient would develop measles.

“The illness is spread by tiny droplets, released when infected people cough and sneeze,” Dr Armstrong said.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes. These are followed, about three days later, by a red blotchy rash. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles can be especially severe in infants and people with poor immune systems.

Individuals who develop a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within two to three weeks of potential exposure to someone with measles, should stay at home and consult their doctor.

“Anyone who thinks they are infected should call ahead and mention their possible contact with measles so they can be isolated when they arrive at the GP surgery or Emergency Department, to prevent infecting other patients and staff,” Dr Armstrong said.

“A person is considered immune to measles if they have previously received two doses of a measles vaccine or were born before 1966.”

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for about 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks have been associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas.

People born during or after 1966 should make sure they have had two doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially before travelling overseas. If they are unsure whether they have been vaccinated, it does not hurt to have another dose.

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, an inflammation of the brain.

ENDS

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