WA measles cases prompt free vaccine for adults

Stock image.
Stock image.

FREE measles vaccines will be offered to adults in WA as more people are becoming infected during overseas travel, particularly to Asia.

The announcement by Health Minister Roger Cook comes ahead of the Easter break and school holidays.

“Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze,” Mr Cook said.

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“Complications from measles can be serious and in about 10 per cent of cases result in pneumonia.”

There were 36 reported cases of measles in WA last year, the highest figure since 2014 and 16 cases have been reported already this year.

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for about 20 years, but small outbreaks do occur when infected tourists visit or infected residents return home from overseas trips.

About a third of measles cases require a hospital admission, and one person in every 1000 will develop an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis.

The new vaccination program addresses an important gap in the community’s protection against measles.

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People born prior to 1966 are usually immune to measles due to having the illness as a child, and people 19-years-old and younger are already eligible for the free vaccination through the National Immunisation Program.

If people are not sure whether they have had two doses of measles vaccine, they should see their GP, immunisation provider or travel health immunisation clinic for the free vaccine.

While the vaccine itself is free, there may be a fee for the consultation.

The new program will be funded through existing vaccination program funding – it has been prioritised to respond to a growing number of reported measles cases in Western Australia.

To learn more about measles or the free adult MMR vaccination program, visit the HealthyWA website at https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/