Department of Health

Health Alert as Measles Cases Rise (Archived content)

17/02/11
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr John Carnie has warned Victorians, especially returned travellers, to be alert to the signs and symptoms of measles, following the notification of 15 cases so far this year.

“Among these notifications eight of the cases reported travelling from overseas before being diagnosed with measles on their return to Victoria,” Dr Carnie said.

“Most of the additional seven cases are people who may have had contact with the returned travellers.

“While all 15 cases are now recovering, it is possible they may have infected others before being diagnosed,” Dr Carnie said.

“Six of the cases required hospitalisation. The notified cases range in age from 8 months to 66 years.

“The illness 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 is advised to ring ahead to their GP or hospital first and tell them that they have fever and a rash. If you know you have been in contact with a measles case please alert your GP or hospital emergency department. The GP or hospital will then be able to provide treatment in a way that minimises the possibility of transmission to others.

“Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness, particularly in very young children and adults. People with measles are often hospitalised.

“People can develop pneumonia and other serious complications from the disease,” Dr Carnie said.

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

  • Anyone who is unvaccinated;
  • Adults aged between 26 and 42 years as many people in this age group did not receive measles vaccine; and
  • People who are immunocompromised (i.e. have decreased immunity) - at any age, even if they have had measles or have been immunised against measles. 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 MMR vaccine) is currently recommended on the National Immunisation Program at 12 months and at 4 years of age. Immunisation is the best protection against measles.

Reviewed 17 February 2011

Health.vic

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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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