Measles outbreak up to 17 cases

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE Department of Health has confirmed 17 measles cases in the Perth metropolitan area, narrowing the pool to those who flew into Perth from New Zealand.

Western Australians who reside in or have visited the Perth metropolitan area since mid-September, especially those on flight NZ175 arriving in Perth from Auckland, New Zealand on September 23 at 1420hrs, are being asked to be alert to the risk of measles.

The Department of Health confirmed the first five cases were reported in the Rockingham area, which has seen grown to 17.

While the majority of the cases predominantly live in the Rockingham area, the risk of exposure to measles applies to travellers on the NZ175 flight and to other people within the broader metropolitan area who may have unknowingly been exposed.

The Department advised children and adults who are not immune were at risk of developing measles if they are inadvertently exposed and these individuals should remain vigilant for the onset of measles symptoms for the next three weeks.

Acting Director of the Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Paul Effler, said measles was a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people coughed or sneezed.

“Every measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread,” he said.

“This includes those most vulnerable to infection, such as infants too young to be vaccinated, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women who are not already immune through vaccination or previous infection.

“With high vaccination coverage, naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for around 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks still occur – usually associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas.”

Public health staff are in the process of providing information to people who were potentially exposed to the most recent cases where they were known, and will be offering preventative treatment or immunisation as appropriate.

However it is not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.

People with measles typically develop symptoms approximately 10 days after being exposed to the virus, but this can vary from seven to 18 days.

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

The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

Measles is contagious for about four days before and after the development of the rash.

Dr Effler said anybody who had had a potential exposure to measles, and who developed a fever with these other symptoms should see a doctor.

“It is important for people to call ahead when travelling to a clinic or Emergency Department so that they can be isolated from infecting other patients and staff when they arrive,” he said.

The Department urged parents to ensure their children receive their measles vaccinations on schedule.

Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases.

Around 30 per cent of cases require a hospital admission and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.

People who are concerned they may have measles and require medical advice after hours can contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

To learn more about measles, visit the HealthyWA website.