Measles comes to Perth

Measles rash on boy
Measles rash, day three. Picture courtesy of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A “measles cluster” in Perth has seen up to eight cases of the highly infectious disease confirmed

On Tuesday, the Western Australian Government issued a warning to people who live in or have visited the Perth metropolitan area, following the confirmation of five cases in people who live in the Rockingham area.

The ABC is now reporting that the number of cases in Perth has risen to eight.

Acting Director of the Communicable Disease Control Directorate, Dr Paul Effler, warned of the highly contagious nature of the disease.

“Every measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread,” Dr Effler said.

“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.

“With high vaccination coverage, naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for around 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks still occur – usually associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas.”

According to the ABC, the outbreak is suspected to have originated with a visitor from New Zealand, who has since gone home.

The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand recently called for pharmacists to be able to provide the MMR, following an outbreak of measles across the Tasman which, according to Dr Nikki Turner, Director of New Zealand’s Immunisation Advisory Centre, “should not be happening”.

WA’s Dr Effler said that anyone who has had a potential exposure to measles, and who develops a fever with other measles symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sore eyes, and a red blotchy rash which begins on the face and spreads to the rest of the body, should see a doctor.

He encouraged people who were born during or after 1966 to check whether they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine, and if they have not, to have one.

He said it was “unprecedented” to see so many of the potentially deadly disease in such a short time in Perth.

In August 2019, WA Health Minister Roger Cook announced that pharmacists can administer the MMR as well as the dTpa (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) and meningococcal (ACWY) vaccines to people aged 16 years and over.

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