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Measles Alert

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 

Territorians are being warned to be alert for measles and get immunised if required, following confirmation of a case of the highly contagious disease in Darwin this week. 

The identified case became unwell several days after returning to Australia following air travel to and holidays in Singapore and Hong Kong.

From Monday 13 to Sunday 19 January while infectious, the person attended two different general practice (GP) surgeries in Casuarina, a massage therapist in Casuarina, a chiropractor and the Royal Darwin Hospital Emergency Department. People not immune to measles who attended these services during the same period or a few hours after would be at risk of contracting the disease.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is in the process of contacting people who attended these practices to provide exposure information and offer preventive treatment or booster immunisation as appropriate. 

Additionally the case visited a child care centre in the Palmerston area that has been contacted and also Casuarina Village, Casuarina Shopping Square and Oasis Shopping Village Palmerston while infectious.

"To be immune to measles you need to have had measles previously or have had two doses of the measles-containing vaccine, known as the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine. The vaccine is given as part of the routine national vaccination schedule at 12 months and at four years," CDC Director Dr Vicki Krause said.

"It is reassuring that we generally have a well-vaccinated population, however this is a timely reminder for all people to review their immunisation status and attend their local community care centre or their GP for immunisation if required.

"Some people, particularly in the 18-48 years age group, may not have received two MMR vaccines due to changes in the national vaccination schedule. People are not considered immune to measles unless they have had two doses of MMR vaccine and should take this opportunity to receive their second dose of MMR if they haven't already."

Measles is a very contagious viral illness that is spread between people through coughing and sneezing. The symptoms of measles are fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, which usually occur 7-10 days after exposure to a case, followed by a red blotchy rash 3-4 days later. 

Up to one third of people infected with measles will experience a complication. Complications are more common in young children and adults and include ear infections, diarrhoea, pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and may require hospitalisation. 

If you have symptoms of measles and intend to visit a healthcare facility it is important to phone in advance so that arrangements for infection control can be made to prevent the spread of the virus to other people.

"Once measles is introduced into a community it has the potential to spread through those who are not immune and may be passed on over several transmission cycles. We therefore ask that the community check their immune status now and get immunised if required," Dr Krause said.

"Measles is a vaccine-preventable illness so make sure you are not at risk - ensure you are immune by having two MMR vaccinations."  

More information about measles is available online at:

http://www.health.nt.gov.au/library/scripts/objectifyMedia.aspx?file=pdf/45/30.pdf&siteID=1&str_title=Measles.pdf

CDC contact details: Business hours: (08) 8922 8044

After hours: (08) 8922 8888 and ask for the on-call CDC doctor.

Media Contact: Bridget Wild 8999 2818 or 0401 116 203