Measles outbreaks are happening worldwide and are now reaching Australia, with confirmed cases in Perth, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Cairns in the past month alone, says a Science and Media Exchange (SCIMEX) report.
So, the Australian Academy of Science is urging Australians heading overseas to make sure their measles vaccinations are up to date.
“According to the Australian Department of Health’s National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System, there have been 172 notifications of measles in Australia so far in 2019, compared to 103 cases in 2018,” says the SCIMEX report.
To help better inform travellers about the risk of measles, a range of educational and promotional material has been released by the Australian Health Department and the Australian Academy of Science.
University of Newcastle public health expert Professor David Durrheim said most measles cases in Australia happen when unprotected travellers return from places where measles is spreading.
“The Philippines has had a very large outbreak with large numbers of deaths in young children. There have been outbreaks in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia,” said Prof. Durrheim.
Measles is more common in developing countries where vaccines are less widely available, however outbreaks have also occurred in destinations Australians might consider ‘low-risk’, such as Europe, the United States and New Zealand.
“It takes just one person to come into the country with measles, and less than 95 per cent of the community immunised, and the virus can spread,” said Australian Academy of Science Fellow Professor Ian Frazer.
“It’s not just the unvaccinated who pose a risk to public health; many people in Australia may be under-vaccinated without realising it,” said Prof. Frazer.
“Those most at risk of developing complications tend to be the same people who are unable to be vaccinated against the disease, so it’s crucial that others in the community are fully immunised to prevent the spread of disease to the most vulnerable in our society.
“Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide lifelong protection. Check your vaccination records and, if in doubt about whether you’ve had two doses, speak with your GP. It is safe to have another MMR vaccine if you don’t have evidence of a second dose. This ensures you’ve got the best possible protection.”
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