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21 January 2014

Measles Alert — check your vaccination status!

The Department of Health is warning people to check their measles vaccination status after two Western Australian adults—a woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s were hospitalised in the last week.

The two were infected with measles following travel to Asia.

A total of 14 confirmed cases of measles have been reported during the period October 2013 to January 2014 compared to an average of just three cases during this period over the previous five years.

Acting Director of Communicable Disease Control Dr Paul Effler said that it was possible that more measles cases would occur in Western Australia over the coming weeks.

Dr Effler said measles was highly contagious among people who were not fully immunised.

"Measles is highly infectious and is spread through coughing and sneezing," Dr Effler said.

"Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes which usually last for several days before a red, blotchy rash appears.

"Complications can range from an ear infection and diarrhoea to pneumonia or swelling of the brain.

"Anyone who develops measles symptoms should seek medical attention, but it is important that they phone ahead first to ensure they don't share the waiting area with other patients and risk infecting them."

Dr Effler said measles could be prevented through vaccination. Two doses of measles containing vaccine (Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) given four weeks apart will protect approximately 99% of those immunised.

Dr Effler said that people born in 1965 or earlier were usually already immune because they had measles disease during childhood, but younger people (those born in 1966 or later) who had not received two doses of measles vaccine were likely to be susceptible to measles.

"Measles is still common in many parts of the world and Australians who travel abroad need to check their immunisation status," Dr Effler said.

"If you are younger than 49 years old and are not sure if you've had two doses of measles vaccine you should consult with your doctor at least a month before your departure."

Dr Effler also urged parents to check that their children are fully immunised. Children should receive a dose of measles vaccine at both 12 and 18 months of age, as part of the routine childhood immunisation schedule.

For more information on measles visit: Measles fact sheet

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