Department of Health acts on measles spike

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE Department of Health has urged people at risk to take up their offer of free measles vaccination following the “highly unusual” cluster of cases confirmed over the past two months.

There have been 26 confirmed cases of measles associated with the cluster from the Rockingham area, prompting health authorities to renew their plea for vaccination checks, specifically targeting Western Australians between 20 and 53 years old.

Communicable Disease Control director Donna Mak said everyone between 20 and 53 should get a Measles-Mumps-Rubella booster vaccination as soon as possible, which is free by going to any GP, community health clinic or Aboriginal legal service.

“That is in recognition of the fact that people of that age group may not have got two doses of measles vaccine when they were children because vaccination schedules were different back in those days,” she said.

“They are people who are definitely at risk now, and so we urge them to get vaccinated as soon as possible and check their immunisation status.”

Communicable Disease Control director Donna Mak. Picture: Nadia Budihardjo.

Dr Mak said the last time WA had a cluster this big was nearly 10 years ago.

“It’s been a long, long time and thank goodness for that because we wouldn’t want this to be happening on a daily basis,” she said.

“We have had 53 cases this year to date in WA.

“This is highly unusual, usually we would see a handful of cases every year.”

People with measles typically develop symptoms approximately 10 to 18 days after exposure.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash three or four days later, which usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

Dr Mak said the measles virus can spread from four days before the rash starts up to four days after the rash appears but the virus could survive in the air for up to two hours.

“You don’t even have to be in the same room at the same time as someone who has measles,” she said.

“You wouldn’t think you could get measles from an empty room, but you can.”

Former measles patient Zacchary Charlesworth. Picture: Nadia Budihardjo.

Former measles patient Zacchary Charlesworth, from Busselton, spent five nights in the ICU in Bunbury for measles, which was believed to be from his trip to Singapore in early July.

“I had flu-like symptoms… I had no idea,” he said.

“I didn’t really think Singapore would be a hot bed of measles, to be perfectly honest.

“It took a couple of days to determine these were measles.”

Mr Charlesworth said he was in the negative pressure room, in complete isolation with no air escaping, for five nights and took about three weeks to fully recover.

He urged others to check their vaccination records as he did not feel sick at all during the time when he was contagious, before the rash appeared.

“One small injection is better than a week in ICU,” he said.

Anyone who thinks they may have measles should call ahead to a clinic or Emergency Department to be isolated from infecting other patients and staff.

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

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Perth measles outbreak worsens