Queensland is currently experiencing a measles outbreak, with 21 cases reported so far this year.
Measles is an acute, highly infectious illness which can cause serious complications such as pneumonia (lung infection) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). It can spread very easily so anyone who has not had two measles containing vaccinations, or who is not sure, is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The measles vaccine is free from your local doctor for anyone born from 1966 and after. People born before 1966 are considered immune due to growing up at a time when everyone had measles in early childhood.
It usually takes about 10 days for measles symptoms to show, but can take from 7 to 18 days.
The early symptoms of measles include:
- runny nose
- red inflamed eyes.
These symptoms usually become more severe over the first three days.
In the early stages of infection, small white spots on a red base may appear in the mouth on the inside of the cheek. This is followed by a blotchy, dark red rash, usually beginning at the hairline. The rash will spread to the entire body over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Typically, the person will feel most unwell for the first couple of days after the rash appears. The rash usually disappears after 6 days.
Treatment and prevention
Vaccination is the only way to prevent measles.
People with measles should be excluded from work, school or childcare centres for at least 4 days after the appearance of the rash. Anyone who has been in contact with a person with measles and has not been vaccinated, or has any condition that compromises their immune system, should be excluded from school and childcare for 14 days from the day the rash appeared in the person diagnosed with measles.
There is no specific treatment for measles. The symptoms are usually treated with rest, plenty of fluids, and paracetamol to lessen pain or fever. Do not use aspirin for treating fever in children.
The measles virus is very contagious. A person may be infectious from about 5 days before the onset of the rash until about 4 days after the rash appears.
The virus is spread through coughing and sneezing or through direct contact with secretions from the nose or mouth.