Measles warning

The Department of Health and Human Services has alerted Victorians more people may be at risk of measles following three cases detected in the past week.

Two linked cases are a woman who is in a stable condition in hospital and a baby boy who is recovering at home.

A third separate case involves a man who is a returned traveller from Romania where there is currently a large measles outbreak. He is in a stable condition in hospital.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton said the two linked cases had visited a number of places between August 20 and September 1 where they may have become infected.

These include: Metro trains (Frankston line) between Armadale and Southern Cross, Southern Cross Station and Armadale Station, St Kilda Library (specifically August 25 and August 30) and Collins Street, Docklands.

“One case acquired measles locally, while the second may have acquired the illness locally or overseas,” Dr Sutton said.

“As the source of the infection is still unknown, we are concerned that there may be more people who have already developed illness and have not been diagnosed.”

Locations where the two cases spent time while infectious between September 6 and 13 include: 6 September – IKEA Richmond (11am – 1pm),  7 September – Spotlight Carnegie (11.30am – 12.30pm), Chadstone Shopping Centre- specifically Kmart (12pm – 3.30pm),  8 September – Federation University, Ballarat (Mt Helen Campus), 9 September – Chadstone Shopping Centre (10 am – 1 pm), 11-12 September – Frankston Train line (peak hour travel time) – Armadale Station and Southern Cross Station, Collins St, Docklands, 13 September – IKEA Richmond (11am – 1.30pm).

"Measles has an incubation period of up to 18 days so those at risk of measles who visited these locations might show symptoms up until October 4,” Dr Sutton said.

Meanwhile, the third case acquired measles in Romania where he had travelled in August and September.

He returned to Australia on September 12 and became unwell on September 13 – therefore was infectious on the flights home and when transiting through Doha and Melbourne.  

These flights include from Bucharest – flight number QR222 – departing on September 12. He stopped over for one hour in Doha, Qatar and then flew to Melbourne on QR904 arriving September 13 in the late afternoon.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness, particularly in very young children and adults. People can develop pneumonia and other serious complications from the disease, and those with measles often need to be hospitalised.

Dr Sutton said people at risk of measles should be vigilant and aware of the symptoms.

“The illness usually begins with common cold symptoms such as runny nose, red eyes and a cough, followed by fever and rash,” Dr Sutton said.

“The characteristic measles rash usually begins 3-7 days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body.

“Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their GP or hospital first and tell them that they have fever and a rash.”

The disease is now uncommon in Australia because of the widespread use of the measles vaccine. It is important to continue immunising children because of the risk the infection can be brought in by travellers arriving from overseas.

Dr Sutton said most cases of measles in Victoria were linked to international travel, with the disease more prevalent in many countries overseas, especially in Bali at present.

“People most likely to develop the illness were unvaccinated people who have travelled overseas, or unvaccinated people who have been in contact with them on their return,” Dr Sutton said.

“The measles vaccine is currently recommended on the National Immunisation Program at 12 months and again at 18 months. Immunisation is the best protection against measles.”

Anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk of contracting measles. Adults aged between 26 and 42 years have a lower immunisation coverage than younger adults and children and therefore most cases are in this age group. Most people over the age of 42 will have been exposed to measles in childhood, and therefore will be protected.

Further information about measles can be found at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/measles

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