You’ve booked your flights and accommodation, suitcase and passport at the ready - but have you made sure you’re protected against measles?

Bring back memories, not measles!

Measles remains a common illness in various parts of the world, including many that are popular destinations for Australian travellers, such as the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Indonesia (including Bali), Vietnam and Thailand. Measles is also common in parts of the Middle East and most of Africa.

Measles outbreaks are also currently being reported across Europe, the United Kingdom, and North and South America. 

If you are travelling to countries where measles is common or where outbreaks are occurring and you are not fully protected, you are at risk of catching the disease. You may also risk exposing others to this highly infectious, serious illness either while travelling, or when you return to Australia.

Please visit the Australian Government Smart Traveller website for information on health risks, including measles outbreaks relevant to your travel destination.

How do I know whether I’m protected?

Measles is a vaccine preventable disease. Two doses of measles-containing vaccine provides lifelong protection against measles in 99 of 100 vaccinated people.

People who have had measles infection in the past are also immune to measles. In Australia, people born before 1966 are generally considered to be immune to measles as it is highly likely that they had the infection during childhood.

There are a number of ways to check whether you are protected against measles - your GP can help you to do this. You might find evidence of immunity in places like a ‘blue book’, or medical record, a blood test result indicating immunity or in the Australian Immunisation Register through your Medicare online account via the myGov website or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

It is better to have documented evidence of being immune or fully vaccinated, than to rely on your own or your parent’s memory. It is safe to receive more than two doses if you are not able to find evidence of your immunity.

What can I do if I’m not protected?

If you are unable to find evidence that you are immune to measles, your GP can arrange for you to receive one or two doses of measles-containing vaccine.

This vaccine is free if you were born during or after 1966 and are more than 12 months of age. 

If you need two doses of the measles vaccine, these are given at least four weeks apart. It is also best to receive your final vaccine at least two weeks before you depart, to allow your body time to develop immunity. It is important to factor these timings into your travel plans. 

What if I'm travelling with young children?

Infants travelling overseas to places where measles is circulating can be vaccinated with a measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine from 6 months of age, but they will still need another two doses starting at 12 months of age.

If you are travelling with children aged between 6 and 18 months to areas where measles is common, you should discuss this with their GP to ensure they are protected prior to travel.

What if I’ve been overseas unprotected?

If you’ve recently travelled to a country or area where measles is common, you should be alert for symptoms for the next three weeks after your last day of travel. If you are exposed to measles, symptoms usually develop after about 10 days; however, it can take as few as seven and as many as 18 days for symptoms to develop.

Measles symptoms include:

  • fever
  • cough, runny nose, or sore red eyes
  • general tiredness and feeling unwell
  • a spotty, non-itchy rash that starts on your head and neck and spreads to the rest of your body.

If you’ve been travelling and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention. However, it is important to call ahead to the medical practice or emergency department to advise them of your symptoms and recent travel, so that measures can be taken to limit your exposure to other people when you arrive.

Be sure to tell your doctor about your recent travel.

If more than three weeks have passed since you returned and you have not developed measles, visit your GP to discuss receiving the measles vaccine.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Current as at: Monday 18 March 2024
Contact page owner: Communicable Diseases