NSW Health is again urging people to vaccinate against measles and watch for symptoms, after the seventh NSW resident in nine weeks returned to Australia with the disease.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director Communicable Diseases NSW Health, said people should particularly watch for symptoms if they were in the same locations as the latest measles case who become infectious in Thailand before returning to Sydney.
The measles case spent time in the following locations between 28 February and 5 March while infectious:
- Bangkok SCG stadium on 28 February
- Thai Airways Flight TG475 from Bangkok, Thailand to Sydney, Australia, arriving in Sydney on 2 March
- The Marrickville area during the day on 5 March, including having lunch at a local restaurant.
Symptoms of measles include fever, sore 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.
“It’s extremely important to be vaccinated against measles, particularly when travelling overseas to countries where the risk of contracting the disease is higher,” Dr Sheppeard said.
“We encourage people to visit their doctor ahead of overseas trips to seek advice on the appropriate vaccinations to have before visiting the countries on their itinerary.
“Being vaccinated not only protects the traveller but it will also protect people the traveller encounters en route and when back in Australia. Measles is highly contagious and can have serious complications, particularly for young children.
“The greater the number of people vaccinated, the greater the herd immunity which helps to protect vulnerable people such as infants under 12 months who are too young to have the measles vaccination.”
Dr Sheppeard said measles spread through the air when an infected person coughed or sneezed.
A highly effective measles vaccine has been freely available for many years for adults and children. Two doses of the measles vaccine are required for maximum protection.
“Those people who have not received two doses of measles vaccine are at particular risk of contracting the disease and should be alert to symptoms in the coming days and weeks,” Dr Sheppeard said.
People with measles symptoms should:
- Seek medical advice as soon as possible
- Stay home from work or school
- Limit other activities to avoid exposing others
- Call ahead before visiting the doctor or emergency department so that arrangements can be made to minimise the risk of spreading the infection.
Anyone born during or since 1966 should have two doses of vaccine (at least four weeks apart). For young children, the measles vaccine is recommended at 12 months and again at 18 months of age. NSW Health offers free MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine through GPs for people born during or since 1966 with no records of having received two doses of MMR vaccine.
Dr Sheppeard said the MMR vaccine is safe so it is better to err on the side of caution and be vaccinated again if unsure of your vaccination history.
“Children or adults born during or since 1966 who do not have documented evidence of receiving two doses of measles vaccine, or evidence of previous measles infection, are likely to be susceptible to measles and should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dr Sheppeard said.