13 September 2023

State-wide measles alert for Western Australians

Western Australians should be alert to the risk of measles following a confirmed case in a returned traveller from Bali.

Infected while overseas, the person received care at a Perth metropolitan hospital, and has spent time in the Perth and Midwest regions while infectious.

The Health Department’s Acting Director of Communicable Diseases Dr Jelena Maticevic said public health staff were contacting people who were exposed, where they are known.

“Measles is a highly contagious viral illness and anyone who has had a potential exposure to measles and who develops symptoms of measles should see a doctor,” Dr Maticevic said.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red non-itchy rash three or four days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

“It is important to wear a mask and call ahead before presenting at a clinic or Emergency Department so that they can isolate you from infecting other patients and staff when you arrive.”

People who have visited an exposure location and times listed below should be vigilant for symptoms for 18 days after their exposure.

Location Address Date/times of exposure
Royal Mail Hotel, Meekatharra Main Street, Meekatharra 3/09/2023
17:45 to 20:00
Spud shed Kelmscott 2853 Albany Highway, Kelmscott, WA, 6111 11/09/2023
12.15pm to 13:15
Bunnings Armadale Corner Ranford Road and Armadale Road, WA 6112 11/09/2023
12:45pm to 13:30

“While there is no ongoing risk of measles at those locations, anyone who has visited one of the exposure locations at the same time as the case should monitor for symptoms and see a doctor if symptoms develop,” Dr Maticevic said.

Exposure sites may be updated and people are encouraged to check the Department of Health website for updated advice.

People with measles typically develop symptoms around 10 days after being exposed to the virus, but this can vary from seven to 18 days.

Every measles case is treated as a potential public health emergency because of the risk of local spread and the potentially severe nature of the disease.

“Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze,” Dr Maticevic warned.

“Persons without measles immunity who were inadvertently exposed to a person with measles symptoms are at risk of being infected and should speak to a health care provider if they become unwell.”

Those most vulnerable to infection include infants too young to be vaccinated, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women who are not already immune through vaccination or previous infection.

Thanks to high vaccination coverage, measles has been eliminated from Australia for around 25 years. Small outbreaks can still sometimes occur, sparked by residents or visitors who get infected while overseas.

Numerous countries are currently experiencing outbreaks of measles and people travelling to these countries are at risk if they do not have immunity to the illness.

People born after 1965 should make sure they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life. If unsure, they should see their doctor for a vaccination before going abroad.

In WA, anyone born after 1965 who does not have evidence of receiving two doses in the past can access government-funded measles vaccine from their GP (all ages) or at a participating community pharmacy (people aged 16 years or more); a vaccine administration fee may apply.

People born in or before 1965 are usually immune to measles because they had the illness as a child.

Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases.

Around 30 per cent of cases require a hospital admission and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.

People who are concerned they may have measles and require medical advice after hours can contact healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

For more information about measles, visit the Measles Health alert.


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