16 December 2015

NSW Health is today warning the public to be alert to the symptoms of measles after two people were reported to have been in the community while infectious with the highly contagious disease in recent weeks.

Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director, Communicable Diseases Branch, NSW Health, said a second case of measles has been diagnosed in an infant, following the recently reported case of an adult in western Sydney who likely acquired the disease during a trip to Singapore. It is currently unknown where the infant, who was too young to have been vaccinated, acquired the infection.

The adult spent time in retail outlets in Parramatta, Wentworthville, Rouse Hill and Kings Langley on Thursday 26 and 27 November while infectious.

The adult also attended two medical centres in Castle Hill and Carlingford between 28 and 30 November, was at Blacktown Hospital’s emergency department on Monday 30 November and caught local buses around Castle Hill.

The infant spent time in retail outlets in Balmain and Broadway between December 3 and 9, and also attended a medical centre in Balmain on several occasions during that period, while infectious.

Dr Sheppeard said anyone who had been in these locations needed to be alert to the symptoms of measles in the coming weeks.

“These cases signal that a measles outbreak could commence in Sydney in the coming days. Susceptible people, such as infants under 12 months of age, and older children and adults who have not received two doses of measles vaccine, should be on the lookout for symptoms, particularly in the coming week,” said Dr Sheppeard.

“If you develop the symptoms of measles, seek medical advice. Please call ahead to your doctor or emergency department so that arrangements can be made to keep you away from others to minimise the risk of infection.

“Measles is highly contagious and is spread through coughing and sneezing.

“Symptoms may include fever, runny nose, sore, red eyes and a cough, followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

“Complications can range from an ear infection to pneumonia or swelling of the brain.

“The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically about 10 days, but can be as long as 18 days, so we are urging people to mindful of any symptoms so that we can minimise the spread.

“People who have not had two doses of measles vaccine may be at risk. If you are not fully immunised, please talk to your GP about measles vaccination.”

Dr Sheppeard also said that with the increase in travel over the Christmas period, it is important for people to ensure their vaccinations are up to date, particularly if they are planning international trips.

“Measles vaccination is highly effective at preventing infection and the best way for people to both protect themselves and those too young to be vaccinated,” said Dr Sheppeard.

Children should receive two doses of vaccine, one at 12 months and the second at 18 months of age. Children over 18 months who have not had their second dose of measles vaccine can be vaccinated now. Anyone born after 1965 should have two doses of vaccine (at least four weeks apart).

NSW Health offers free MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccine through GPs for people born after 1965 with no records of having received two doses of MMR vaccine.

For more information, please refer to Measles.