No new measles cases but the risk is not over

The measles outbreak that began in Darwin in mid-February is over but Territorians are reminded they still need to ensure they are immune from the disease.

From one case of measles in mid-February there were a further 30 cases confirmed over a 40 day period.

Despite the fact that no further measles cases have been reported in Greater Darwin since 6 April, the advice remains that Territorians need to ensure they are measles immune.

People who are not immune continue to be at risk of contracting measles, as cases are on the rise nationally and internationally. The FREE measles containing vaccine, known as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is available from your vaccine provider.

“If you have not had 2 MMR vaccines or do not know your measles vaccination status, now is the time to get an MMR vaccine to protect you and others around you from the disease,” Dr Vicki Krause, Director at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), said.

“Measles is not an illness that just affects children as this recent outbreak in Darwin has shown. Those most affected were aged between 20 and 55 years of age who had only had one measles containing vaccine, followed by babies under 12 months who were too young to have had their routine immunization.

“This outbreak was the largest seen in the Territory since 2014, originating from one case that was imported from overseas travel,” Dr Krause said.

“Make sure you are immune to measles before travelling. Cases of measles are increasing globally each day and it is very common to catch measles when travelling.”

During the recent outbreak, more than 1200 people were directly contacted as part of the response to provide disease specific information, to offer vaccination as appropriate to halt the measles transmission, and to protect the public from the disease. Measles is very infectious and can spread very easily in public places.

The age recommendation for the first MMR vaccine was reduced and offered to babies from 9 months of age in the Darwin and Palmerston area.

As measles transmission has stopped, the MMR schedule for Darwin and Palmerston has returned to the usual 12 and 18-month vaccination timeframe. Those infants who received their vaccines early still require their routine 12 and 18-month MMR doses.

If travelling overseas with a child under 12 months please speak to your local health centre for advice as an early dose of MMR is recommended.

Territorians returning from overseas are reminded the symptoms of measles - fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes - which usually occur 7-10 days after exposure to a case. A few days later, a red blotchy rash starts often on the face and then becomes widespread over the body.  Measles is a serious disease. A third of the cases in this recent outbreak were hospitalized.

If you think you, or someone you know may have measles, best practice is to call ahead to the GP practice, clinical or hospital, so that you are isolated on arrival to reduce the spread of the disease to others.

Remember, if you are not immune to measles or cannot confirm that you are, it is recommended that you attend your vaccine provider to request a FREE MMR vaccine.

Website: Measles info https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/health-conditions-treatments/viral/measles

Phone: 0459 166 801

Last updated: 16 May 2019