Department of Health

Health alert on measles

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services is alerting passengers from an international flight from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne to the signs and symptoms of measles, following a confirmed diagnosis of a case from the flight.

The flight - AirAsia D7214 from Kuala Lumpur - arrived at Tullamarine on Wednesday at approximately 9.30am.

An Australian man in his 40s became unwell on the flight and went straight to hospital where the illness was diagnosed.

"We are working with airline officials to identify and contact passengers who shared the international flight into Melbourne," Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton said.

"People who were at Melbourne Airport last Wednesday particularly around the international baggage collection area, who develop illness over the next week should alert their doctor or hospital emergency department."

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 often need to be hospitalised.

The illness usually begins with common cold symptoms such as runny nose, red eyes and a cough, followed by fever and rash, Dr Sutton said.

"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," he said.

"Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other patients."

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 that infection can be brought in by travellers arriving from overseas.

Dr Sutton said most cases of measles in Victoria were linked to international travel, with the disease more prevalent in many countries overseas.

The measles vaccine is currently recommended on the National Immunisation Program at 12 months and again at 18 months. Immunisation is the best protection against measles.

Anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk of contracting measles. Adults aged between 26 and 52 have lower immunisation coverage than younger adults and children and therefore most cases are in this age group.

Most people over the age of 52 will have been exposed to measles in childhood, and therefore will be protected.

Further information about measles can be found at the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 13 March 2018


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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