The Department of Health and Human Services is asking the community to watch for signs and symptoms of measles after several cases have been diagnosed in Victoria. People who are not fully vaccinated or are unsure if they have received two doses are encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated.
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What is the issue

Victoria is seeing an increase in measles cases. Several people are confirmed to have the disease after coming into contact with two people who contracted the disease overseas in the last week of April and first week of May.

All of these recent cases have visited public areas whilst potentially infectious, creating a risk for transmission at several locations, across a number of areas.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness. Symptoms usually begin about 10 days after you are exposed, but can start as soon as seven days after you are exposed, or as long as 18 days after you are exposed.

Who is at risk

  • You are at risk of measles if you were born during or since 1966 and have not received two measles vaccines or if you have a health condition causing immune-compromise, such as cancer requiring chemotherapy.
  • You are most at risk of measles if you were born during or since 1966 and have not received any measles vaccine at all, especially if you are travelling overseas or are in contact with travellers.
  • This means if you are in your late twenties to early fifties, there is a good chance you have only received one measles vaccine, and you could be at risk.
  • If you are in your late twenties to early fifties, you should go see your general practitioner or other immunisation provider to get a measles vaccine, unless you can find documented evidence of having received a second dose of measles vaccine. If you are travelling overseas, get a measles vaccine as soon as possible.

What you need to do

Make sure you’ve had two measles vaccinations. People who are not fully vaccinated or are unsure if they have received two doses are encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated now.

Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other people.

Key messages

  • Measles is on the rise, affecting travellers all around the world.
  • Due to the increase in infections people are asked to watch for the signs and symptoms of measles.
  • Measles usually begins with common cold symptoms such as runny nose, red eyes and a cough, followed by fever and rash.
  • Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other people.
  • Measles is most commonly spread when someone swallows or inhales the cough or sneeze droplets from an infected person. The measles virus is carried inside mucus or saliva droplets and remains alive for several hours outside the body. 
  • Infection can also occur if someone touches contaminated surfaces or objects and then touches their own mouth or nose or eats before washing their hands.
  • Measles is very contagious. A person with measles can infect about nine in every 10 people they have contact with, if those people have not been protected against measles by immunisation or previous infection.
  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it; and about one out of every 15 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child in every 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with an intellectual disability
  • Measles may cause pregnant woman to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

Can I get the measles vaccine for free?

The measles vaccine (given as the Measles-Mumps-Rubella or MMR vaccine) is offered free to children at 12 months and the second dose is delivered at 18 months of age (in the form of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Chickenpox vaccine).

Anyone born during or since 1966 who does not have documented evidence of having received two doses of a measles vaccine can now receive a free measles vaccine.

Women of child bearing age who have low or negative rubella immunity (as determined by a blood test) can receive the MMR vaccine free of charge under the Victorian government’s initiative to ensure women are protected against rubella prior to becoming pregnant.

Some people who may have been exposed to infectious measles cases during this outbreak may also be able to access the free MMR vaccine. If you are eligible you will receive a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services.

To find a clinic visit https://bit.ly/2VKVGFJ

More information

Take a look at the Measles frequently asked questions (Word).

View our videos on measles from Dr Angie Bone, Acting Chief Health Officer.

Visit the Better Health Channel  or Health.vic for information about measles.

Or visit health translations of translated Measles Community Fact Sheet.

Contacts

Call Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days). Call triple zero (000) in an emergency.

Where to go for help

  • Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other patients.
  • If you think you might have measles, it’s a good idea to stay away from other people as much as possible, particularly those who are unvaccinated or most at risk of serious illness, until you have been assessed by a doctor.