The Department of Health & Human Services has been notified of a further five cases of measles, following an outbreak in Brunswick.
The five new cases takes the outbreak tally to nine. The five are three women and two men all in their 20s and 30s. Two of the five are being treated in hospital.
Concern remains that further cases will emerge over the next two weeks, and it is important that people remain alert to the symptoms.
The Department has also alerted doctors to identify people who could benefit from vaccination.
Any person concerned they may be developing symptoms of the illness should phone their doctor to make an appointment to minimise the chance of the highly infectious disease spreading to other patients.
Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Roscoe Taylor said that three of the latest cases are from Brunswick, one from Brunswick West and one from Preston.
Dr Taylor cautioned against assuming that other areas of Melbourne were not affected.
“We are concerned that more people may have been infected from coming into contact with these people in the community,” Dr Taylor said.
“Measles has an incubation period of up to 18 days so illness acquired from contact could still be coming through, and cases could still remain infectious for many days.”
The disease is now uncommon in Australia because of the widespread use of the measles vaccine. It is important to continue immunising children because of the risk the infection can be brought in by travellers arriving from overseas.
Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness, particularly in very young children and adults.
People can develop pneumonia and other serious complications from the disease, and those with measles often need to be hospitalised.
Dr Taylor said measles usually begins with common cold symptoms such as fever, sore throat, red eyes and a cough. The characteristic measles rash usually begins 3-7 days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body.
“Anyone developing these symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their doctor or hospital and alert them that they have fever and a rash,” he said.
“If you know you have been in contact with a measles case please alert your GP or hospital emergency department. The doctor or hospital will then be able to provide treatment in a way that minimises transmission.”
Under the tough new No Jab, No Play laws which came into force on 1 January, all Victorian children must be fully vaccinated to enrol in childcare and kindergarten, unless they have a medical exemption.
The groups of people most at risk of catching measles are:
- Anyone who is unvaccinated.
- Adults between 35 and 49 years – as many in this age group did not receive measles vaccine.
- People at any age who are immunocompromised, even if they have had measles or have been immunised. This includes people with diseases such as cancer, and people who are undergoing cancer treatment or are on high-dose steroids.
Measles vaccine (given as a combination with other vaccines) is currently recommended on the National Immunisation Program as a two dose schedule for children between 12 months and 4 years of age. Immunisation is the best protection against measles.
Women aged in their 20s to 40s can get free measles/mumps/rubella vaccine under the Victorian Government’s initiative to ensure women of child-bearing age are protected against rubella.
People aged under 20 can get it under the Federal Government’s current catch-up campaign, and other at-risk groups who can get free vaccine include people of ATSI background, refugees or asylum seekers.