Department of Health

Measles cases in Melbourne now total 14

23/02/16
Published by Department of Health & Human Services

The Department of Health & Human Services has been notified of a further five cases of measles, including two children, following the outbreak in Brunswick.

The five new cases takes the outbreak tally to fourteen. The other three are two women and a man, all in their 40s.

Both the children are pupils at Princes Hill Primary School. The Department of Health & Human Services is working closely with the school to provide advice and information to parents and staff.

The Department is also working with the Department of Education and Training to provide information today to schools across Victoria.

Victoria's acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Roscoe Taylor, said a number of pupils are being kept from school for at least the next week, as they are not fully immunised.

"We appreciate that this situation will be disruptive for the school community but we must not put at risk those children who are not fully immunised," Dr Taylor said.

"Some teachers and support staff may also need to stay at home if they can't demonstrate their immunity," Dr Taylor said.

"We are concerned that additional cases will emerge over the next two weeks and it is important that people remain alert to the symptoms."

Dr Taylor cautioned against assuming that other areas of Melbourne were not affected.

The Department has also alerted doctors to remind them of the importance of immediately notifying suspected cases so that early actions can be taken to prevent spread to contacts of those cases.

Family doctors are also being asked to advise on, and offer, vaccination to all patients who would benefit from vaccination.

Any person concerned they may be developing symptoms of the illness should phone their doctor to make an appointment to minimise the chance of the highly infectious disease spreading to other patients.

"Measles has an incubation period of up to 18 days so illness acquired from contact could still be coming through, and 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 Taylor 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 is advised to ring ahead to their doctor or hospital and alert them that they have fever and a rash," he said.

"If you know you have been in contact with a measles case please alert your GP or hospital emergency department. The doctor or hospital will then be able to provide treatment in a way that minimises transmission."

Under the tough new No Jab, No Play laws which came into force on 1 January, all Victorian children must be fully vaccinated to enrol in childcare and kindergarten, unless they have a medical exemption.

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; and
  • 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 between 12 months and 4 years of age. 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.

People aged under 20 can get it under the Federal Government's current catch-up campaign, and other at-risk groups who can get free vaccine include people of ATSI background, refugees or asylum seekers.

Reviewed 23 February 2016

Health.vic

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Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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