Western Sydney Local Health District has issued an alert urging all residents to ensure they are fully protected against measles after the diagnosis of the infection in a person who has not travelled outside of the Western Sydney area. The person has not had any contact with any known cases of measles, and likely caught the infection from an unidentified case in the community.
Residents of Mount Druitt and Blacktown are encouraged to be alert for signs and symptoms of measles, and to seek care immediately if they present. NSW Health requests people experiencing measles symptoms call ahead to inform medical practice or emergency department staff of their symptoms, so that measures can be taken to limit exposure to others on arrival.
Measles is a highly infectious viral illness, which is spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. Simply being in the same room as someone who is infectious with measles can result in infection if you are not immune.
The illness generally begins with a cough, fever, sore, red eyes, and runny nose, followed three to four days later by a red spotty rash which begins on the face and neck and spreads to the rest of the body. The rash is not itchy. Diarrhoea may also occur, especially in infants. Measles is a serious illness and people with the infection often require hospitalisation.
While measles is rare in Australia, it remains common in many places around the world, including several countries popular with Australians travelling for leisure, or to visit friends and relatives.
Measles anywhere is a problem everywhere, so it is important that everyone makes sure they are fully protected against this preventable disease.
Vaccination provides the best protection against measles. Two doses of measles containing vaccine provides lifelong protection against measles in 99% of people vaccinated. Anyone born during or after 1966 should ensure they have received two doses of measles containing vaccine. In Australia, two doses are provided as part of the National Immunisation Program at 12 months of age as measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and 18 months of age as measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (MMRV) vaccine. These combination vaccines also provide protection against mumps, rubella (German measles) and Chickenpox.
While all children n Australia have been offered two doses of vaccine since 1994, due to a number of changes to the National Immunisation Program Schedule over time, people born between 1966 and 1994 may not necessarily have received two doses.
In NSW, anyone born during of after 1966, who does not have evidence of immunity to measles, can receive two doses of MMR for free from their general practitioner. For people who are not sure of whether they have received two doses, it is safe to receive more than two, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
For more information download the Measles
fact sheet, or visit the measles webpage.