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12 December 2014

Measles warning for Western Australians

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to an increased risk of measles, following a confirmed diagnosis in a Perth resident who was recently infected while holidaying in Bali.

A large number of people were potentially exposed to this person while they were infectious, and may be at risk of measles. People could have been exposed at several locations, on the following dates and times:

  • Wednesday 3 December, around midday: Train from Murdoch to Bull Creek station and connecting bus from Bull Creek station to Fremantle
  • Friday 5 December, 3.30 to 4am: Perth domestic airport (Virgin terminal)
  • Friday 5 December, 10.30pm to closing: KFC on Canning Highway in Alfred Cove
  • Saturday 6 December 2.30 to 4.30pm: Fremantle Markets
  • Sunday 7 December, lunchtime: Roj Kebab shop on Mends St, South Perth
  • Tuesday 9 December, around 8am: patients and visitors in the vicinity of the Emergency Department at St John of God Hospital in Murdoch

Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Armstrong said Public Health staff had been directly contacting potentially exposed individuals who were known to them but it was not possible to contact all people who were in the public places listed above.

"Measles is contagious for up to five days before the development of the rash and for four days after the rash starts. Children and adults who have been unwittingly exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not immune," Dr Armstrong said.

"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 individuals who may have been exposed and who develop a fever with other symptoms—including cough or runny nose in the next two weeks—should stay at home and consult their doctor.

"The patient should call ahead and mention their possible contact with measles so they can be isolated when they arrive at the GP surgery or emergency department to prevent infecting other patients and staff," Dr Armstrong said.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that can cause serious disease. Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash about three days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles infections can be especially severe in infants and people with poor immune systems.

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

People born after 1966 should make sure they have had two doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, before travelling overseas. If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, it does not hurt to have another dose. 

Complications following measles can be very serious and may include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases. Around one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

Media contact: 9222 4333

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