Third case of measles in ACT in two months comes as record numbers infected in Europe

Glynis Quinlan 11 February 2019 18
Measles vaccination

Canberrans are being warned that measles can be highly contagious among people who are not fully immunised. File photo.

Canberrans are being urged to be on the alert for measles symptoms after a person returning from overseas was diagnosed with the virus – the third case in the ACT in the last two months.

According to authorities, the person became unwell prior to leaving Pakistan and was infectious when arriving at Canberra Airport on Sunday, 3 February and while there between 10 am and 11 am.

The current case comes at a time when travellers are being warned that measles is prevalent in South and South East Asia and while the World Health Organisation is saying that record numbers of people have been infected with the virus in Europe.

A case of measles diagnosed in Canberra in mid-December was also linked to an overseas trip and the January 2 case was believed to have been infected by this person.

“Measles continues to circulate in many overseas countries, so we urge people travelling overseas to check their immune status before they leave,” said ACT Public Health Physician Dr Kerryn Coleman.

Dr Coleman said that to date no further cases have been linked to the current measles case, which ACT Health confirmed late last Friday (February 8).

She said that as part of their investigations, ACT Health is following up identified contacts at Canberra Airport on February 3.

“Anyone who was at the Canberra Airport on that Sunday should be aware for signs and symptoms of measles from now until 24 February 2019,” Dr Coleman said.

“We urge anyone with symptoms of measles to seek medical advice and to advise their health care provider before arriving at the clinic so that appropriate infection control precautions can be put in place to stop the spread of infection.”

Outbreaks of measles in popular tourist destinations

NSW Health has also issued an alert about the measles case as the traveller is believed to have been infectious during their flight and when they transited through Sydney Airport.

According to NSW Health, the infected Canberra passenger was on flight QR906 from Doha to Sydney departing Doha on Saturday 2 February and arriving at Sydney International Airport at 6:25 am on Sunday 3 February. The passenger was then in the international transit lounge until approximately 9 am before taking flight QR906 to Canberra.

NSW Health said that outbreaks of measles in popular tourist destinations mean the risk for measles being imported into Australia at the moment is high. They also urged travellers to ensure they are fully vaccinated before heading overseas.

Record numbers infected in Europe
According to data released by the World Health Organisation last Thursday (February 7), the total number of people infected with the measles virus in Europe in 2018 was the highest this decade. It was three times the total reported in 2017 and 15 times the record low number of people affected in 2016.

The data on the European Region shows that 72 children and adults were killed by the virus in 2018 and that 82,596 people in 47 of 53 countries contracted measles.

The World Health Organisation says that more children in the European Region are being vaccinated against measles than ever before, but progress has been uneven between and within countries. This has left increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected and resulted in record numbers being affected by the virus.

Symptoms of measles
An ACT Health spokesperson told Region Media that increased measles activity has been noted in December and January across Australia, largely linked to cases who acquired their infections overseas.

“All three of the recent ACT measles cases were linked to overseas travel – either directly, or as secondary case,” the spokesperson said.

Dr Coleman said the Canberra community needs to be aware of the symptoms of measles following confirmation of the recent case. These may include fever, tiredness, runny nose, sore eyes and a cough, followed by a rash which appears two to seven days later.

She said that people generally develop symptoms 7-18 days after being exposed to a person with infectious measles, with 10 days being more common. People are infectious from five days before they develop a rash until four days after.

“Measles can be highly contagious among people who are not fully immunised. This is a timely reminder for Canberrans to ensure their vaccinations are up to date,” Dr Coleman said.

“People born in 1966 and later who do not have two recorded doses of MMR vaccine are also considered susceptible to measles.

“Under the funded Australian National Immunisation Program, two doses of MMR vaccine are given to children at 12 and 18 months of age,” Dr Coleman said.

“The ACT Government funds measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine for adults. Anyone born in or after 1966 who has not previously received two measles-containing vaccines is eligible for free MMR vaccine. This can be obtained from ACT GPs.”

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18 Responses to Third case of measles in ACT in two months comes as record numbers infected in Europe
Mia Gouveia Mia Gouveia 7:08 pm 11 Feb 19

Olivia Lyons Abbey Lyons Ava Lyons watch the babes.

Alison Brittliff Alison Brittliff 6:54 pm 11 Feb 19

I didn’t realise as an adult I needed my vaccines topped up. Talk to your doctor.

David Brown David Brown 6:45 pm 11 Feb 19

Do we need to reintroduce quarantine stations?

Emily Scott Emily Scott 3:40 pm 11 Feb 19

I wonder if it could potentially have started mutating which is why it's becoming so common again? Like the flu.

    Emily Scott Emily Scott 6:00 pm 11 Feb 19

    It's starting to become a bigger issue than it was, you're right it's not common. It's common in the media but the rates are increasing compared to previous years. Anti vaxxers usually get the blame but I'd love to know if they have looked into what I mentioned.

    Sharon Love Hope Sharon Love Hope 10:17 pm 11 Feb 19

    Emily Scott there is a direct and clear link between falling vaccination rates and increase in the diseases they protect us from. In the case of the current measles outbreak in America, almost all of those infected are unvaccinated. The dangerous anti vaccination movement is absolutely at fault IMHO. Andrew Wakefield has a lot to answer for. They talk about “harm” and “risk”. A child is far more at risk of a life altering or fatal outcome from measles itself than from a vaccine.

    David Witte David Witte 6:50 am 13 Feb 19

    Emily Scott there are teams looking at this whenever there's cases (because it's so serious). They assess the disease and would be checking if it's different/mutated. If it did (beyond the protection of the current vaccine) the would be a massive push to get a new vaccine created and distributed worldwide.

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 1:55 pm 11 Feb 19

Yes, but isn’t everyone vaccinated?

    Jessica Grace Jessica Grace 2:13 pm 11 Feb 19

    Ann Chaplin nope Canberra has plenty of antivaxxers

    Melissa Lee Brown Melissa Lee Brown 2:23 pm 11 Feb 19

    Ann Chaplin

    No there’s mothers out there that believe that vaccines are poison

    Jenni Zimoch Jenni Zimoch 2:41 pm 11 Feb 19

    You're not vaccinated at birth.

    Adults might not be vaccinated.

    Some only got one dose in the 60s and 70s and might not be fully covered.

    Not everyone can be vaccinated.

    Linda Benson Linda Benson 2:55 pm 11 Feb 19

    Babies arnt, chemo patients arnt, immuno compromised arnt, pregnant women can be affected. Need to protect them by creating a herd immunity

    Heather Lance Heather Lance 3:22 pm 11 Feb 19

    Not all the under ones! 👶

    Sally Dean Sally Dean 3:26 pm 11 Feb 19

    you can be fully vaccinated and still have no immunity.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:39 pm 11 Feb 19

    Jenni Zimoch I have had only one dose, but if you are over a certain age you are thought to have come into contact with measles and gained some resistance, and they WON'T give you more than one dose, even if you ask for it, and I have asked more than one doctor. Don't need it, is the message. If there's another reason, I wish they would tell me.

    David Witte David Witte 6:45 am 13 Feb 19

    Kate Swan not really. This is one of the anti vaccination attacks for vaccines.

    David Witte David Witte 6:47 am 13 Feb 19

    Maybe try again as there has been research indicating we need to be vaccinated again. This came out when about 4 years ago and they didn't have enough vaccines for the ones at risk (parents of children to help protect the kids) so they may have said no then.

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