Measles

Measles is an extremely contagious viral disease which is common in many countries where childhood vaccination rates are low or absent. In recent years there have been significant outbreaks in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The majority of these outbreaks are associated with travellers who are not immune and are bringing measles into the country.

Measles is frequently contracted in crowded places and is a potentially serious disease.

Symptoms

The incubation period is seven to ten days with the initial symptoms resembling a ‘cold’ with fever, runny nose, dry, hacking cough and red eyes that are sensitive to the light. A red rash will appear spreading from the ears and face to the rest of the body. Infected persons are contagious for several days prior to these symptoms occurring. Complications including pneumonia and meningitis or encephalitis can be extremely severe.

Prevention

Vaccination is strongly recommended if you have not had the disease and cannot be sure if you were immunised properly as a child. Those born between 1966 and 1981 may have only had a single dose and are advised to have a booster.

Treatment

It is advisable to seek medical advice if you suspect you have measles. Travel inevitably involves increased exposure to airborne diseases in crowded airports, buses, trains and sightseeing. Most cases in Australia have occurred in people born after the mid-1960s, particularly in those who have not been immunised.