Update – Measles outbreak

Cases of measles notified in the Darwin-Palmerston area since mid-February have increased to 12 and more are currently being assessed for this very contagious disease.

Territorians are being asked to get their free measles-containing vaccine, known as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, if they are not immune and to be aware of measles symptoms.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is contacting more than 700 people, who have been identified as having had potential contact with cases to provide information and offer preventive immunisation if appropriate.

“For the majority of cases, however, there is no direct link to the previous cases and no recent overseas travel. That means that measles is likely being spread in very public places,” said Dr Vicki Krause, Director at the CDC.

“All recent cases either live or work in the Palmerston area, but have travelled widely in the Darwin-Palmerston area and beyond while infectious, so there could be cases emerging throughout the Territory, and beyond. As an example, one case who acquired measles in Palmerston was diagnosed after travelling to a southern state.

“If you are not immune to measles, it can be caught easily in public places such as shopping centres, pharmacies, waiting rooms, fast food areas, dance classes, etc. Stores and shopping centres in Palmerston have been repeatedly visited by recent infectious cases.”

“So, ask yourself – am I immune to measles?”

You will be immune if you have previously had measles or have had two doses of the measles-containing MMR vaccine. For people born between 1966 and 1996, you may have only had one dose and should check your records to see if you have had two vaccines.

“If you are not immune to measles or cannot confirm that you are, it is recommended that you attend your vaccine provider today to request a free MMR vaccine.“If uncertain of your immunity, getting an MMR vaccine now is strongly advised.”

Measles is a very contagious viral illness that is spread among people through coughing and sneezing.

“It is very common to catch measles while travelling overseas so all travellers need to ensure they are immune to measles before travelling. Measles is circulating widely throughout the world at the moment, including Europe,”  Dr Krause said.

The symptoms of measles are fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, which usually occur 7-10 days after exposure to a case, followed a few days later by a red blotchy rash which often starts on the face and then becomes widespread over the body.

“If you think you or someone you are caring for might have measles, make sure you call ahead to the medical practice, so that staff there can take the necessary precautions to avoid potential spread to others.”

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.

For more information about measles visit https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/health-conditions-treatments/viral/measles

Media contact: Tess Nekrasov 0427 596 954

Last updated: 26 March 2019