An urgent warning has been issued after a measles outbreak in Melbourne involving a baby and five adults.
The health department has confirmed that this is the biggest linked-cluster measles outbreak since March 2018, when nine people contracted the illness.
According to news reports, the people, who all knew each other, contracted the illness after coming into contact with an infected overseas visitor.
This latest measles outbreak has prompted renewed reminders that vaccinations are key in preventing the spread of this and other deadly illnesses.
It is known that the six people who contracted measles visited the following Melbourne suburbs while infected:
- East Malvern
- Noble Park
- Mount Waverley
- South Wharf
- East Melbourne
- St Kilda Road
Department for Health Acting Chief Health Officer Angie Bone says it is likely there will be more cases to come and she is urging people to keep an eye out for symptoms of measles.
Symptoms of measles
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the signs and symptoms of measles appear approximately seven to 14 days after a person is infected.
Symptoms typically include:
- High fever
- Runny nose and
- Red, water eyes (conjunctivitis)
Measles – not an isolated case
Experts are warning us not to be complacent about measles. Particularly when measles is more infectious than influenza and tuberculosis and can have devastating consequences.
In March this year, a measles cases involving a Sydney baby who was just eleven-months old hit the headlines.
Liam Eldridge was two months away from getting his vaccination when he contracted measles. He had picked up the illness while visiting family in the Philippines.
While Liam’s parents were obviously distraught, they later said that had they known that babies as young as nine months can be given the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine they would have done it. Particularly as they were apparently aware of the high rates of infection in the Philippines. [According to sources, a total of 21,396 measles cases including 315 deaths were reported from January and 14 March 2019.]
Experts warn we cannot let immunisation rates fall
The Department of Health reports that the number of measles cases worldwide has increased substantially in recent years, with a number of countries currently experiencing severe and prolonged measles outbreaks.
Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, with outbreaks often occurring.
In Australia, the majority of measles cases are due to unvaccinated individuals becoming infected while travelling to countries in which measles is either common or there are outbreaks occurring. As measles is highly contagious, these people can then spread the disease to others, causing outbreaks, often before they are aware that they have the virus.
Kristine Macartney, the Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research, says,
If we take our guard down, if we let immunisation rates fall, we will see measles. And we will see more measles than we should ever see.”
“Get out there and get vaccinated. It’s really important.”