Western Australians heading overseas, including to Bali, are being reminded to make sure they have been appropriately vaccinated against measles, following a further case contracted on the island.
WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse said there had been more than 20 separate importations of measles from Bali to WA since 2013, including seven already this year, which is more than for any other overseas travel destination.
“Unfortunately, it is not unusual for Australians to be infected with measles overseas, including in Bali, but the increase in the number of cases in WA and other states in recent months suggests there is an ongoing measles outbreak in Bali,” Dr Dowse said.
“With high vaccination coverage, naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for around 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks still occur – associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas.”
He added that every imported measles case was treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread – including to those most vulnerable to infection such as infants too young to be vaccinated, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.
Travellers returning from Bali (or other countries) who developed a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within two to three weeks of returning home, should consult their doctor.
Dr Dowse said public health staff had also been providing information to people who were potentially exposed to the most recent Bali measles case where they were known, but it was not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.
People could have been exposed to the recent case at the following locations in Perth, with dates/times as indicated:
- Thursday 27 April – around 3pm at the Coles supermarket in Fitzgerald St, North Perth.
- Friday 28 April – around 8am at the IGA supermarket in 2nd Ave, Mount Lawley.
- Friday 28 April – around 3pm at Vintage Cellars in 2nd Ave, Mount Lawley.
- Saturday 29 April – between 9am and 10.20am at Loftus Recreation Centre in Leederville.
- Saturday 29 April – around 6pm to 7pm at Domino’s Pizza in Beaufort St, Inglewood.
- Sunday 30 April – around 2pm at the Coles supermarket in Guildford Rd, Maylands.
Dr Dowse said anyone who thinks they might have measles should call ahead so that they can be isolated when they arrive at the GP surgery or Emergency Department, to prevent infecting other patients and staff.
“Measles is contagious for about four days before and after the development of the rash. Children and adults who have been unwittingly exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not immune,” Dr Dowse said.
Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze.
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.
Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases. Around 40 per cent of cases require hospitalisation and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, inflammation of the brain. Deaths from measles remain common in developing countries.
Measles vaccine is currently given to children at 12 and 18 months of age. People born during or after 1966 should make sure they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially before travelling overseas, including to Bali. If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, they should see their doctor for a dose before they leave.