Queensland measles outbreak: Check your vaccinations are up to date

28 May 2014

With six new measles cases reported in Queensland this week, NPS MedicineWise is urging people of all ages to check their vaccinations are up to date.

NPS MedicineWise Design & Development Manager Ms Aine Heaney says that measles is a highly contagious viral infection that can travel freely across borders.

“Widespread vaccination has made measles a relatively rare infection in Australia, but outbreaks can still occur as we have seen across a number of states in recent months,” she says.

“In most cases the infection has been caught overseas, brought home and spread to others who aren’t immunised.”

Measles causes fever and a full-body rash, and can also have serious complications like pneumonia and brain inflammation (encephalitis). It remains a leading cause of death in young children worldwide.

“Vaccination is the best protection against measles, and because of these recent cases in Australia, NPS MedicineWise is urging people to check that they are up to date with their vaccinations,” says Ms Heaney.

“The outbreak in Queensland right now will hopefully prompt people to check that everyone in their family is up to date on their immunisation schedule.”

The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is given to 1 year old children and MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella) vaccine is given at 18 months as part of the National Immunisation Program.

All adolescents and adults (including adults born during or after 1966) who have not been vaccinated against measles, mumps or rubella, or who have not received two doses of a measles-containing vaccine, should also be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.

Healthcare workers, people who work with children, adults who are travelling overseas, and people who grew up outside of Australia and may not have been immunised should check in particular that their vaccinations are up to date.

Ms Heaney emphasises that vaccination doesn’t just protect you or your family from measles infection: it also protects vulnerable people in our population who can’t be vaccinated, for example people with a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or taking medicines that suppress their immune system.

“When enough people are vaccinated against measles, it prevents the spread of infection,” says Ms Heaney.

“This protects our community as a whole – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated, children who are not yet fully vaccinated, and anyone with a weakened immune system who can’t be vaccinated.”

If you are not sure if you have had measles, or if you need to be vaccinated, talk to your doctor.

To read more about vaccines for measles and other infectious diseases, visit www.nps.org.au/measles

For more information on prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines (herbal, ‘natural’, vitamins and minerals) from a health professional, call NPS Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) . Hours of operation are Monday–Friday 9am–5pm AEST (excluding public holidays).

ENDS

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

If you are a journalist seeking comment on a story or more information on any of our programs or campaigns please contact one of our media advisers: Stephanie Childs on 02 8217 8667 or Alex Chapman on 02 8217 8733 (during office hours) or call the NPS MedicineWise media phone on 0419 618 365 (for urgent media requests outside of office hours). If your enquiry is not urgent you can also send us an email.