Department of Health

Health advice on measles case

01/07/16
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

The Victorian community is warned to be alert to the potential for measles, following the detection of the infectious illness in a young adult who recently spent time in Shepparton and Melbourne.

Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Finn Romanes, advised people who have been in Shepparton and Melbourne who have symptoms consistent with measles to seek medical advice from their doctor.

The young adult travelled to Brisbane during the time they would have been infectious, and Queensland health authorities have also issued an alert.

Dr Romanes said during the period in which the person was infectious and had the potential to pass on the illness, they were in Shepparton from June 21 to 25, travelled by train to Southern Cross Station on June 25 and attended Melbourne Airport on June 25 and 28.

“We are concerned that people may have been infected after contact with the person in that period,” Dr Romanes said.

“Measles has an incubation period of up to 18 days so illness acquired from contact could still be coming through, and subsequent cases could still remain infectious for many days.”

The disease is now uncommon in Australia because of the widespread use of the measles vaccine. It is important to continue immunising children because of the risk the infection can be brought in by travellers arriving from overseas.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness, particularly in very young children and adults. People can develop pneumonia and other serious complications from the disease, and those with measles often need to be hospitalised.

Dr Romanes said most cases of measles in Victoria were linked to international travel, with the disease more prevalent overseas. People most likely to develop the illness are unvaccinated people who have travelled overseas, or unvaccinated people who have been in contact with them on their return.

Dr Romanes said the young adult in this instance had not been overseas, and it was likely that they had become infected through contact with someone who had travelled overseas. In the period leading up to the infection they had been in Geelong, central Melbourne and the bayside suburbs. 

Dr Romanes said measles usually begins with common cold symptoms such as fever, sore throat, red eyes and a cough. The characteristic measles rash usually begins 3-7 days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body.

“Anyone developing these symptoms should ring ahead to their doctor or hospital and alert them that they have fever and a rash which may indicate measles,” he said.

“The doctor or hospital will then be able to provide treatment in a way that minimises transmission to others.” 

Health Minister Jill Hennessy launched a new app in December that helps remind busy parents when their young children are due for a vaccination.

The app, VaxOnTime, was developed in response to one of the most common reasons parents cite for falling behind in vaccinations – they simply forget.

The groups of people most at risk of catching measles are: 

  • Anyone who is unvaccinated.
  • Adults between 35 and 49 years - as many in this age group did not receive measles vaccine.
  • People at any age who are immunocompromised, even if they have had measles or have been immunised. This includes people with diseases such as cancer, and people who are undergoing cancer treatment or are on high-dose steroids.

Measles vaccine (given as a combination with other vaccines) is currently recommended on the National Immunisation Program as a two dose schedule for children at 12 months and 18 months. Immunisation is the best protection against measles.

Women aged in their 20s to 40s can get free measles/mumps/rubella vaccine under the Victorian Government's initiative to ensure women of child-bearing age are protected against rubella.

There have been 32 cases of measles in Victoria so far this year, compared with 27 cases for the same period last year.

Latest figures show that 94% per cent of Victorian children aged up to 5 years are fully immunised against measles – but Dr Romanes urged parents of all children to ensure their immunisations are up-to-date.

Reviewed 01 July 2016

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