Measles warning for Western Australians travelling to Bali

WA Health is urging people planning to travel overseas to ensure they are fully protected against measles, following two recent measles cases in New South Wales in travellers who have returned from Bali.

Dr Paul Effler, Acting Director Communicable Diseases Control Directorate said although measles was uncommon in Australia, the virus still circulated widely in many parts of the world.

These include popular holiday destinations for Western Australians such as Bali and other parts of Asia.

The last case of measles in WA was reported in April 2023 in an unvaccinated traveller from India.

“Measles is highly infectious so anyone who is not immune is at risk of getting infected if they are exposed,” Dr Effler said.

“Measles illness can be very severe and often requires hospitalisation. Fortunately, it is preventable through vaccination.”

Symptoms of measles include fever, red and sore eyes as well as a cough, which is followed several days later by a prominent red, blotchy rash several days later which spreads from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

Anyone arriving from overseas who develops symptoms of measles is advised to call ahead to their GP or the closest emergency department so they can discuss their illness and arrange for follow-up care and urgent testing, if required.

“It’s important that people who may have measles don’t wait in waiting areas with other patients,” Effler said.

“Two doses of measles vaccine provides excellent, long-term protection.”

The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and is included on the National Immunisation Program for children at 12 and 18 months of age.

In Western Australia, anyone born during or after 1966 who does not have evidence of having received two doses in the past can access a government-funded measles vaccine from their GP (all ages) or at a participating community pharmacy (people aged 16 years or more). A vaccine administration fee may apply.

People who are unsure of whether they have had two doses should get the measles vaccine, as receiving additional doses is not harmful.

People born before 1966 are likely to have had measles infection in the past and are considered immune.

Parents travelling with very young children who haven’t yet had two doses of measles vaccine should discuss travel plans with their GP well in advance of departure to determine if their child could benefit from early vaccination.

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