Measles outbreak in Northbridge: four confirmed cases as health authorities send warning

Stock image.
Stock image.

NORTHBRIDGE was hit by a measles outbreak this month, sparking an official warning from the Department of Health.

At least four cases of measles emerged among backpackers staying in the city’s premier entertainment precinct, along with two other suspected cases.

The first traveller developed measles after a holiday in Bali, and three secondary infections were subsequently confirmed in other backpackers.

People may have been exposed to risk of measles infection in and around Northbridge, including in pubs and nightclubs, supermarkets, pharmacies and other shops, in the periods July 1 to July 7, and then again from around July 13 to July 20.

Members of the public are also advised they could have been exposed to measles at a number of locations in Perth throughout July:

– Spinner’s Backpackers hostel in Northbridge during the first and third weeks of July.

– Northbridge Medical Centre on Monday July 4 between 4pm and 5pm; Saturday July 16 between 10am and 2pm; Monday July 18 between 12.30pm and 6pm; and Tuesday July 19 between 3pm and 4.30 pm.

– Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Department during the evening of Thursday July 7.

– The Brass Monkey Hotel in Northbridge during the evening of Friday July 15.

– Connections Nightclub in Northbridge on Saturday July 16 from around 11pm to 5am the following morning.

WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Gary Dowse said public health staff had been contacting potentially exposed individuals directly where they were known, but it was not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.

“There is also a risk that infected backpackers could travel on to other parts of WA and become ill, so the general public and healthcare workers should be alert to the possibility of additional measles cases occurring across the state over the next two to three weeks,” Dr Dowse said.

“Measles is contagious for about four days both before and after the development of the rash. Children and adults who have been unwittingly exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not immune. A person is considered immune to measles if they have previously received two doses of a measles vaccine or were born before 1966.”

Dr Dowse said individuals who developed a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within two to three weeks of potential exposure to someone with measles, should stay at home and consult their doctor.

“Anyone who thinks they are infected should call ahead and mention their possible contact with measles so they can be isolated when they arrive at the GP surgery or emergency department, to prevent infecting other patients and staff,” he said.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can cause serious disease.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash about three days later.

The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles infections can be especially severe in infants and people with poor immune systems.

Around 40 per cent of measles cases require hospitalisation.

The disease can cause serious complications, including ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases.

About one person in every 1000 cases will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

People born during or after 1966 should make sure they have had two doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially before travelling overseas.

If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, it does not hurt to have another dose.