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24 February 2014

Measles warning for travellers to the Philippines

An ongoing measles outbreak in the Philippines has prompted an urgent reminder for people travelling to the Philippines to check they and their children are fully immunised against the disease before their departure.

WA Health Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Armstrong said measles was highly contagious among people who were not fully immunised. 

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

"Measles can have serious complications ranging from ear infections to pneumonia and swelling of the brain."

Since January, there have been 13 cases of measles reported in Western Australia—eight of which occurred after travel to the Philippines. This is the highest rate of measles cases recorded in WA since 2006.

Dr Armstrong said this was a reminder of the importance of adults and children being fully vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases, especially before travelling overseas.

"A person is considered immune to measles if they have received two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine or were born before 1966," Dr Armstrong said said.

Dr Armstrong urged travellers returning from the Philippines and those in contact with them to be alert for symptoms.

These include fever, runny nose, inflamed eyes and cough, followed a few days later by a red blotchy rash. Measles is contagious for up to five days before the development of the rash and for four days after it starts.

"Individuals who have returned from the Philippines, or think they might have been exposed to measles, and who develop symptoms of the disease, should stay away from others and promptly consult their doctor," Dr Armstrong said.

"The patient should mention their possible contact with measles when they call their doctor so that they can be isolated when they arrive at the surgery and prevent the spread of measles to other patients."

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for over a decade but occasional cases and small outbreaks do occur—usually associated with tourists or WA residents returning from overseas

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