While the opposing forces of vaxers and anti-vaxers continue to debate, NSW Health is again warning people to be alert for signs and symptoms of measles after two young travellers, who were infectious, flew into the Gold Coast then visited various Northern Rivers towns last week.
The travellers likely acquired the infection while holidaying in the Philippines in mid-March. They were unwell and infectious during their return flights to the Gold Coast via Singapore.
The North Coast Public Health Unit is urging people who were on the Scoot flight TR6 and at the same locations as the travellers (see below for details) to be alert for symptoms of measles until 22 April – they say it can take up to 18 days for symptoms to appear following exposure to a person with measles.
Greg Bell, Acting Director of Public Health for the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts, said while those locations do not pose an ongoing risk, people who may be susceptible to measles and were there on the same days should contact their local public health unit for advice.
‘The local public health unit is working with the medical centre and hospital to contact other patients who were present at the same time as the infectious people and offer preventive treatment as appropriate,’ Mr Bell said.
‘Anyone who develops symptoms should call ahead to their GP to ensure they’re not in the waiting room with other patients.’
Symptoms of measles include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the body.
Preventive injections can be given to highly-susceptible people up to six days after exposure to measles.
‘The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is safe and effective protection against measles,’ Mr Bell said. ’It’s free for anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn’t already had two doses. If you’re unsure whether you’ve had two doses, it’s safe to have another.’
Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.
While the risk of infection is low in fully-vaccinated people, health experts urge anyone who comes into contact with someone who has measles to remain alert for symptoms. They should limit their exposure to others and seek medical care if symptoms develop.
NSW Health says protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, which has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.
The latest Annual Immunisation Coverage Report shows vaccination rates in NSW are at their highest level ever, with more than 95 per cent of five year olds vaccinated against measles.
The travellers spent time in the following areas while infectious:
Saturday 30 March
• Scoot flight TR6, which departed Singapore on Friday 29 March and arrived at Coolangatta International Airport at 8:10am
• Travelled from Coolangatta International Airport to Pottsville via Uber
Tuesday 2 April
• Visited shops in Pottsville and Cabarita, including IGA at Pottsville and Woolworths at Cabarita
Wednesday 3 April
Attended a Main Street Medical centre in Murwillumbah
• The Tweed Hospital Emergency Department
Thursday 4 April
• The Tweed Hospital Emergency Department.
To find your local public health unit, call 1300 066 055.
For more information on measles visit: health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/measles/Pages/default.aspx