School holidays warning for measles hot spots

Friday, 6 July 2018

Families heading overseas these school holidays are being urged to check their measles vaccinations are up to date.

SA Health’s Chief Medical Officer and Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Paddy Phillips, said while we haven’t had any cases of measles in South Australia this year, the disease is prevalent in popular holiday destinations across Southeast Asia.

“Nationally there have already been 50 cases so far this year, many of which were acquired in Bali, while other people have been infected while on flights,” Professor Phillips said.

“We know that people like to make the most of the school holidays and escape the South Australian winter by travelling to neighbouring locations that can often be measles hot spots.

“There are measles outbreaks in a number of countries in Southeast Asia and in Europe, including Britain, so it is vital that people travelling to these regions confirm they have had two doses of the measles vaccine before leaving home.

“If you’re not sure whether you’ve had two measles vaccinations or if you’re travelling soon, I’d recommend not taking the risk and have another vaccination so measles doesn’t ruin your holiday.”

Measles is highly contagious for several days and can be contracted by other people up to 30 minutes after an infected person has left the area.

“We really urge people to be vigilant as measles can be a nasty illness, which starts with a fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a blotchy rash that begins on the head and spreads down the body,” Professor Phillips said.

“Immunisation provides the best protection against measles and it’s vital that people have two doses of the measles vaccine to protect themselves and the community.

“However, if someone thinks they have been exposed, it’s still possible to get vaccinated to protect yourself, provided it’s within three days of exposure.”

Many people born in the late 1960s to mid-1980s only received one measles vaccine, so anyone born during or after 1966 should visit their GP to confirm their vaccination status, or simply have a booster shot.

There was one case of measles in SA in 2017 and 11 cases recorded in 2016.  In May this year, an 8-month-old girl from interstate spent time in Adelaide while she was infectious with measles.

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