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11 July 2014

Measles contact at Royal Perth and Bentley Hospitals

The Department of Health is alerting people who were at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) on July 3 and 6 or at Bentley Hospital on July 2 and 5, that they may have been exposed to measles.

A person who was at RPH and Bentley Hospitals on these days has been confirmed to have measles. If not immune, exposed people who attended the hospitals on these days could develop symptoms of the disease from now until around July 24.

An unimmunised traveller who was infected while holidaying overseas, and who attended the Emergency Department at RPH on June 21 and 24, was the original source of the infection. That person has also spread measles to two family members and another patient attending the Emergency Department at that time.

Contact associated with the most recent case is believed to be limited, but the necessary precautions are being taken by advising known contacts, including both staff and patients.

Measles is highly infectious to non-immune persons and is spread by airborne respiratory droplets. The incubation period is usually 10–14 days but may be up to 18 days. Clinical illness from measles usually begins as fever, cough, runny nose and sneezing and conjunctivitis (red, sore eyes), before the characteristic blotchy red rash appears after about 3 to 4 days. Measles is infectious up to five days before the rash appears, and usually for about 4 days after appearance of the rash.

Measles can be a serious illness, especially in young children and other vulnerable people. Around 50% of cases may require hospitalisation, and complications include pneumonia and encephalitis.

People who have not been vaccinated against measles or have received only one dose of vaccine may still be susceptible to infection. About 99 per cent of people who receive the recommended course of two vaccinations will be immune to measles. People born before 1966 have a high probability of being immune through prior natural infection.

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA since 1999, but occasional cases and small outbreaks occur associated with tourists or WA residents returning from overseas.

A family of five unimmunised children also recently acquired measles from an unknown source in WA. These incidents are a reminder of the importance for all Western Australians to be fully vaccinated against measles and other infectious diseases, including when travelling overseas.

People who think they may have measles should stay at home and not go to public places. If they need to attend a GP or hospital they should phone ahead so that precautions can be taken to ensure they do not sit in waiting rooms and clinical areas where they may infect other patients and staff.

Further information regarding measles is available at www.public.health.wa.gov.au

Media contact: (08) 9222 4333

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