21 July 2016

Measles warning following outbreak among backpackers in Northbridge area

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to an increased risk of measles following the confirmation of four cases in backpackers staying in the Northbridge area of Perth. Two other people are also suspected of having measles.

The first traveller developed measles after a holiday in Bali, and three secondary infections have now been confirmed in other backpackers, with results of testing awaited on the suspected cases.

People may have been exposed to risk of measles infection in and around Northbridge, including in pubs and nightclubs, supermarkets, pharmacies  and other shops, in the periods 1 July to 7 July, and then again from around 13 July to 20 July.

In addition, people could have been exposed to measles at the following more specific locations, with dates/times indicated below:

  • Spinner's Backpackers hostel in Northbridge during the first and third weeks of July.
  • Northbridge Medical Centre on: Monday 4 July between 4pm and 5pm; Saturday 16 July between 10am and 2pm; Monday 18 July between 12:30pm and 6pm; and Tuesday 19 July between 3pm and 4:30 pm.
  • Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Department during the evening of Thursday 7 July.
  • The Brass Monkey Hotel in Northbridge during the evening of Friday 15 July.
  • Connections Nightclub in Northbridge on Saturday 16 July from around 11pm to 5am the following morning.

WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse said public health staff had been contacting potentially exposed individuals directly where they were known, but it was not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.

“There is also a risk that infected backpackers could travel on to other parts of WA and become ill, so the general public and healthcare workers should be alert to the possibility of additional measles cases occurring across the state over the next two to three weeks,” Dr Dowse said.

“Measles is contagious for about four days both 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.

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

Dr Dowse said 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 Dowse said.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can cause serious disease. 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. Measles infections can be especially severe in infants and people with poor immune systems.

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for about 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks occur 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 not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, 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.


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