Measles in Brisbane
The number of measles cases in Queensland has hit a 17 year high.. A Queensland Health spokeswoman says 70 people have been diagnosed with the disease in 2014 so far – 31 of them are children aged under 18. That’s about three times higher than the average measles rate.
With cases on the rise, Brisbane Kids thought it was time for a reminder about this highly-infectious disease, and what signs to be on the lookout for.
Measles infection and symptoms
Measles is described as an acute illness that causes a skin rash and fever. Serious side-effects such as lung infections and inflammation of the brain can be fatal. Associated middle ear infections can also have serious consequences. Most deaths occur in children aged under five years old.
Queensland Health says measles starts with the following symptoms, which usually worsen over the course of three days:
- Cough – often worse at night
- Runny nose
- Red inflamed eyes – suffers might want to avoid light
In the early stages of the illness there might be small white spots on a red base on the inside of the cheek. This is followed by:
- Blotchy dark red rash often starting at the hairline
- Rash then spreads all over the body before disappearing after about six days
A person with measles can be infectious about five days before the rash appears, until about four days after the rash is visible. It takes between seven and 18 days for symptoms to appear after someone has caught the virus.
Measles is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with secretions from the nose and mouth or from coughing and sneezing.
How to avoid contracting Measles
Many of the measles cases diagnosed in Queensland this year relate to people who contracted the illness while travelling in countries including Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. Local health authorities advise anyone travelling overseas to ensure they’re vaccinated for measles.
Low vaccination rates in some parts of Queensland is the other main factor blamed for the increase in measles cases.
The measles vaccine is free for anyone born after 1966. Those born before that year are considered to be immune because they grew up in an era when most people contracted measles when they were little.
The National Immunisation Program Schedule includes free measles vaccinations for:
- Children aged 12 and 18 months
- Children aged 4 years who haven’t previously had a second dose of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine
The lucky country
Not all children are lucky enough to live in a country with a free vaccination program, and measles remains one of the biggest killers of young kids worldwide. The World Health Organisation says 122,000 people died from the virus in 2012. That’s more than a dozen deaths every single hour.
Before widespread vaccination programs began in 1980, measles killed more than two and a half million people each year. Between the year 2000 and 2012 there was a 78 per cent drop in the number of measles deaths, thanks to vaccinations.
If you suspect that your Brisbane Kids have been exposed to an infectious person carrying the measles, please seek medical advice as soon as possible. You can find a bulk billing doctor near you here, or contact the After Hours Doctor Service on 13SICK (or 1300 365 453) who provide a bulk billing for children and will visit your home on weeknights, weekends and public holidays.