NSW residents are being urged to ensure they are fully vaccinated for measles before they travel overseas after 36 people have been diagnosed with the disease in NSW since December last year.
The majority of cases have been from travellers who have entered or re-entered Australia and unknowingly been infected with measles while overseas.
Outbreaks of measles in popular tourist destinations means the risk of the disease being imported into Australia remains high and unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated travellers are at risk of exposure.
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease that is vaccine-preventable. It is spread through the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.
Measles virus can stay in the air for short periods of time (15 to 30 minutes), so if people enter a room after an infected person, they could still become infected.
Two doses of measles vaccine provide a lifelong protection against measles in 99 out of 100 vaccinated people. Make sure you and your family are fully protected from measles before you travel and if you are travelling with an infant younger than 12 months, see your GP.
NSW Health is urging travellers to be vigilant before they travel and ensure they are fully protected. Anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn’t already had two doses or had measles is eligible for the free vaccine. If you’re unsure whether you’ve had two, it’s safe to have a dose.
“With increasing travel from Australia to popular overseas destinations and a large multicultural community who regularly travel back to their country of origin, the risk of measles remains high in our community,” said Dr Vicky Sheppeard, NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases.
“There is a risk to not only travellers and their family, but also the wider NSW community when they return if they have been infected with this particularly contagious disease,” said Dr Sheppeard.
“Symptoms to watch for include fever, sore eyes and a cough, followed three or four days later by a red, spotty rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body.”
If you develop any of these symptoms after returning home, make sure you call ahead to inform your GP so arrangements can be made to limit your contact with other people in the surgery.
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.
For more information visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/measles