The North Coast Public Health Unit is advising people in the Byron Bay area to be alert for measles after a Byron Bay student was diagnosed with the disease last week.
The student who attended Byron Bay High School last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, also travelled to and from school on the Bangalow-Byron bus (Blanch’s Bus Service, bus numbers 32 and 30).
Three other people in the Byron Bay area have been diagnosed with measles over the past two weeks.
Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit, Paul Corben, said that measles is highly infectious among people who are not fully immunised.
‘Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing,’ Mr Corben said.
‘Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes which usually last for several days before a red blotchy rash appears.
‘Complications range from an ear infection and diarrhoea, through to pneumonia and swelling of the brain (encephalitis).
‘Vaccination with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the only way to prevent infection.
‘Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for children, with the first at 12 months and the second at 18 months of age,’ Mr Corben said.
People born during or after 1966 who don’t have two documented doses of MMR vaccine are at risk of measles.
People born before 1966 are usually immune because they had measles during childhood.
The MMR vaccine is free to people born during or after 1966.
Mr Corben said the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically 8 to 18 days.
‘People are infectious 4 to 5 days before the onset of rash until 4 to 5 days after the appearance of the rash,’ he said.
‘Anyone who contracts measles should stay away from school, preschool, work and other public places until at least 4 days after the onset of the rash when they are no longer infectious.
‘Anyone with symptoms of measles should phone their general practitioner (GP) in advance before arriving for assessment to ensure they can be isolated from other patients,’ he said.
‘Vaccination is the only way of preventing the occurrence of measles in our community.
‘For vaccination to be effective, a high level of MMR vaccine coverage must be maintained. Vaccination coverage levels in the Byron Bay and nearby areas are among the lowest in Australia and further cases may occur.’
The North Coast Public Health Unit will be running a vaccination clinic for all students at Byron Bay High School at 10am today (Monday, October 21).
This clinic is also open to students from other schools who travelled on the Bangalow-Byron Bus on Monday 16, Tuesday 17 or Wednesday 18 October.
Students wishing to be vaccinated at this clinic must provide a consent form signed by a parent or guardian.
Alternatively, people may contact their GP for vaccination advice and to receive MMR vaccination.
For more information on measles, go to www.health.nsw.gov.au.
If you are concerned you may be at risk of measles, phone the North Coast Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.