Rob Wright

Measles alert

THE North Coast Public Health Unit is advising people in the Tweed-Byron area to be alert for measles.

One person, who visited Tweed Heads last week, has since been diagnosed with measles. Six measles cases have also been reported in Queensland over the past month.

The local health service's Public Health Director Paul Corben said measles were highly infectious among people who were not fully immunised.

"Measles is spread through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms can include fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes, which usually last for several days before a red blotchy rash appears. Complications range from an ear infection and diarrhoea, through to pneumonia and swelling of the brain (encephalitis)," he said.

"Vaccination with measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is the only way to prevent infection. Two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for children, with the first at 12 months and the second at 18 months of age."

People born during or after 1966 who don't have two documented doses of MMR vaccine should contact their local health provider for vaccination advice. People born before 1966 are usually immune because they had measles during childhood. The MMR vaccine is free to people born during or after 1966.

"The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is typically 8 to 18 days. People are infectious 4-5 days before the onset of rash to 4-5 days after the appearance of the rash. Anyone who contracts measles should stay away from work, preschool, school and other public places until at least 4 days after the onset of the rash when they are no longer infectious," Mr Corben said.

Anyone with symptoms of measles should phone their doctor in advance to ensure they can be isolated from other patients, Mr Corben said.

He said vaccination was the only way of preventing the occurrence of measles in our community. For vaccination to be effective, a high level of MMR vaccine coverage must be maintained.

For more information on measles, please go to www.health.nsw.gov.au.

If you are concerned you may be at risk of measles, phone the North Coast Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.



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