Measles in the ACT

Health Directorate today announced that more than 70 cases of laboratory-confirmed measles have been reported in NSW in the past few months and the numbers are expected to increase; however no cases of measles have been reported in the ACT.

Given the outbreak in NSW it is possible that cases may occur here in the ACT.

Protect yourself against Measles

The best way to protect yourself against measles is to make sure that you are vaccinated against measles.

Measles is a highly contagious illness that may lead to serious complications. Up to a third of people with measles can develop complications that include ear infections and pneumonia, and may require hospitalisation. About one in a thousand people with measles can develop encephalitis.

Measles usually begins with a fever, tiredness, cough, runny nose and sore eyes. A characteristic rash appears 2 – 7 days after the onset of symptoms and will usually begin when the fever is still present. The rash usually starts on the face, head or neck that spreads down to the body. Those who develop symptoms of measles should avoid contact with others and seek medical advice. It is important to phone ahead to the doctor or hospital so that precautions can be taken to prevent the further spread of infection.

Measles is one of the most easily spread of all human infections. It is usually spread by droplets of air when a person with measles virus coughs or sneezes. People with measles are infectious from just before the symptoms begin (about 5 days before the rash appears) until four days after the rash appears. The time from exposure to a measles case to becoming sick is usually about 10 days.

The most effective protection against measles is vaccination. Two doses of the Measles Mumps Rubella vaccine (MMR) are recommended. This is normally given to children at 12 months and 4 years of age. However the vaccine can be given at any age. People can access the MMR vaccine free of charge from their GP (a consultation fee may be charged). While Australia has high vaccination rates against measles, the virus is highly transmissible and often causes localised outbreaks in communities with lower vaccination rates.

For those people who have come in contact with a person with measles, infection may be prevented if MMR vaccine is given within 3 days of exposure or with immunoglobulin within 6 days of exposure to the person with measles.

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