NSW Health is advising people to be alert for signs and symptoms of measles after a man was infected following a recent trip overseas.
NSW Health Acting Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Christine Selvey said overseas travellers are at risk of measles if they haven’t had 2 doses of measles vaccine and most infections in NSW this year were acquired overseas.
A large outbreak is currently occurring in Samoa, while outbreaks are also affecting New Zealand, Tonga, American Samoa and Fiji, so travellers returning from these countries should be alert to symptoms of measles and seek medical attention immediately if they occur, but are urged to call ahead so exposure to others can be limited on arrival.
“Measles is one of the most contagious diseases but two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine provide lifelong protection in 99 out of 100 vaccinated people,” Dr Selvey said.
“Symptoms to watch out for include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body.”
The infected man (who had received one dose of vaccine as a child overseas) made several trips on public transport and visited a number of locations including the St George Hospital Emergency Department while unknowingly infectious.
While the locations pose no ongoing threat to the public, people who may have been exposed to the man, by being in the same place at the same time, are at risk of developing measles until 30 December, as it can take up to 18 days for symptoms to develop following exposure to measles.
Measles vaccine may help prevent measles in unvaccinated people if given within 72 hours of an exposure to a measles case, and another treatment (immunoglobulin) can be given for unvaccinated people at higher risk of measles complications up to 6 days after exposure.
People at high risk of measles complications include:
Children from birth to 11 months (who are too young for measles vaccination)
Unvaccinated people who attended the same locations on the same day and at the same time as this case should contact their local public health unit on 1300 066 055 for advice.
Measles is a highly infectious, vaccine preventable disease that is spread through the air when someone who is infectious with the disease coughs or sneezes.
Anyone born during or after 1966 needs to ensure that they have received two measles shots. Check that you have had these doses before travelling overseas.
NSW Health makes the measles vaccine available free anyone born during or after 1966 who doesn’t have two documented doses of measles vaccine.
“If you’re unsure whether you’ve been vaccinated against measles in the past, it’s safe to have another dose.”
The NSW Government is investing $130 million in the 2019-20 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.
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