Update: Measles cluster in Perth metropolitan area

8 October 2019

People who live in or have visited the Perth metropolitan area since mid-September – particularly those who travelled on flight NZ175 departing Auckland New Zealand arriving in Perth on Monday 23 September at 2.20pm – are being asked to be alert to the risk of measles.

Boy with a red blotchy measles rash on his back, neck and face

There have now been 17 confirmed measles cases in the Perth metropolitan area since mid-September.

While, thus far, the majority of the cases predominantly live in the Rockingham area, the risk of exposure to measles applies to travellers on the NZ175 flight and to other people within the broader metropolitan area who may have unknowingly been exposed. This is because persons with measles are infectious before they become unwell, and often attend a number of public venues prior to being diagnosed.

People who have been inadvertently exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not already immune and should remain vigilant for the onset of measles symptoms for the next 3 weeks.

Every measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread. This includes those most vulnerable to infection, such as infants too young to be vaccinated, those with compromised immune systems and pregnant women who are not already immune through vaccination or previous infection.

Measles virus survives less than 2 hours in the air or on objects and surfaces and is inactivated rapidly in the presence of sunlight or heat. It is generally considered safe for non-immune individuals to enter a room 30 minutes after a measles case has left the area.

What are the symptoms of measles?

People with measles typically develop symptoms approximately 10 days after being exposed to the virus, but this can vary from 7 to 18 days. Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash 3 or 4 days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Anyone who has had a potential exposure to measles, and who develops a fever with these other symptoms should see a doctor. Measles is contagious for about 4 days before and after the development of the rash.

People who are concerned they may have measles and require medical advice after hours can contact healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

It is important to call ahead when travelling to a clinic or Emergency Department so people with measles can be isolated from infecting other patients and staff.

Have you been fully vaccinated against measles?

People born before 1966 are usually immune to measles because they had the illness as a child. People born during or after 1966 need 2 doses of the measles-containing vaccine to be fully covered, especially if they plan to travel overseas. People aged 53 years or younger in 2019 who have not had the second dose of the vaccine, or if they are not sure, are eligible for a free vaccine from their GP, Aboriginal Medical Service, travel clinic or community health immunisation clinic.

Parents are also urged to make sure their children receive their measles vaccinations on schedule. Measles vaccine is currently given to children at 12 and 18 months of age.

Learn more about measles and the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine.