Department of Health

Health alert on measles as six more cases notified

26/03/18
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Six more cases of measles have been linked to a passenger on a flight to Melbourne from Malaysia earlier this month.

All six had been in the international baggage area on the morning of Wednesday, March 7 when the AirAsia flight D7214 from Kuala Lumpur arrived at approximately 9.30am.

The index case, an Australian man in his 40s, became unwell on the flight and went straight to hospital where the illness was diagnosed.

Victoria's deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said the newly-confirmed cases had been in the international baggage collection area between 9.30am and midday.

"None of these were on the same flight, but we believe they fell ill because they were in the baggage area at the same time as the index case," Dr Sutton said.

The new cases are a baby too young to be immunised and five adults ranging in age from 20 to 60.

Locations visited by the newly diagnosed cases include:

  • Wednesday 14 March - Woolworths Kew from 12pm to 2.30pm
  • Sunday 18 March - Danny's Coin Laundry, High Street Thornbury from 7pm until 8.30pm, Tahini Restaurant, High Street Northcote from 8pm until 9.30pm
  • Monday 19 March - La Trobe University, Bundoora campus from 12pm until 2pm, Amcal Pharmacy Echuca, from 1.30pm until 2.30pm
  • Monday 20 March - Chemist Warehouse, Plenty Road Bundoora, from 4pm until 5pm, Pharmasafe Chemist Plenty Road Watsonia, from 4pm until 5pm
  • Wednesday 21 March - Echuca College 'Discovery night' from 6pm to 7.30pm, IGA Watsonia, Watsonia Road, from 2pm until 3pm
  • Thursday 22 March - Woolworths Echuca from 1pm to 2.30pm

None of these locations need to be avoided now as they do not present an ongoing risk of transmission.

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.

"All adults born during or since 1966 who have not received two doses of measles-containing vaccine should see their GP before travelling overseas, to check their records and get vaccinated. Measles vaccine is not just a childhood vaccine: it's a travel vaccine," Dr Sutton said.

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

Reviewed 26 March 2018

Health.vic

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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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