Department of Health

Health alert on measles

17/01/18
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

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

The flight - Emirates EK404 - departed Dubai Wednesday 10 January 2018 at 9.20am and stopped in Singapore before arriving at Tullamarine on Thursday 11 January 2018 at approximately 9am.

An Australian man in his 30s became unwell on the flight, and after a short stop at home went to hospital where the illness was diagnosed and he was immediately isolated. He was extremely infectious prior to being isolated.

"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 Thursday (between approximately 9am and midday), particularly around the international baggage collection area, who develop illness over the next week should alert their doctor or hospital emergency department."

Measles has an incubation period of seven to 18 days so people might develop symptoms from tomorrow until the end of January.

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 have fever and a rash 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, especially in Bali at present.

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 17 January 2018

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