Unvaccinated student contracts measles
TWO people have contracted the deadly measles virus in Sydney, one of whom was an unvaccinated girl.
NSW Health has issued an urgent alert after confirming a male backpacker, aged in his 20s, and a primary school student were diagnosed with the highly infectious disease this week.
Officials are urging the public to look out for signs and symptoms as the outbreak may have spread since the two patients contracted the disease.
The cases bring the total number of people diagnosed with measles in NSW to 25 since December.
The young girl attends Bonnyrigg Heights Primary School, 37km west of Sydney's CBD.
Doctors confirmed she was not vaccinated at the time she contracted measles.
Parents have been told to keep an eye on their children for any signs of the highly contagious disease.
"Students who haven't had two doses of measles vaccine should stay away from school until April 2," the statement said.
While health officials contact people the girl may have been in contact with in the last week, they have released a detailed timeline of her movements while she was infected.
She visited Russel's Barber Shop on Wilson Rd in Green Valley between 11am and 12.30pm last Thursday.
Four days later, the girl presented at the Edensor Road Family Medical Centre, in Edensor Park, between 11am and 11.45am.
After it was determined she had contracted the virus, she was taken to the emergency department of Fairfield Hospital, where she stayed from 12.35pm to 1.45pm.
"The local Public Health Unit is contacting other patients who may have come into contact with the infectious child at the medical centre and hospital," NSW Health confirmed.
NSW Health communicable diseases director Dr Vicky Sheppeard said the source of the two patients' measles was "under investigation".
She highlighted how vital it was to vaccinate children for the health of the entire community.
"These two cases highlight how easily the measles virus can spread among unvaccinated people following importation of the disease from overseas," she said.
According to NSW Health, the backpacker had been staying at the Central Perk Backpackers hostel in Haymarket, in Sydney's CBD, while infected.
"He is believed to have been vaccinated against measles as a child, but the number of doses cannot be verified," the statement said.
Guests at the hostel have been given "preventive injections" to ward off any possible exposure as well as health advice.
The man appeared to have moved around Sydney's CBD while he was infected.
Between March 9 and 18, he visited World Square shopping centre, on George St, specifically the Coles supermarket within it.
He also wandered through a variety of shops surrounding the World Square shopping precinct during this time.
Officials have urged vigilance from the patients and families who were in the emergency department of St Vincent's Hospital, in Sydney's eastern suburbs, on Monday, March 18, between 2.45pm and 3.30pm.
This was the time the backpacker presented for medical treatment.
"People who visited those venues at the same time as the man should be alert for symptoms of measles until April 5," NSW Health said.
"It can take up to 18 days for symptoms to appear following exposure."
Dr Sheppeard said the man and the unvaccinated girl no longer posed a threat to the public, as they are being treated in a secure environment.
But she urged people who were concerned to contact their doctor and check their vaccination status.
"Preventive injections can be given to highly susceptible people up to six days after exposure to measles," Dr Sheppeard said.
"The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is safe and effective protection against measles.
"It's free for anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn't already had two doses. If you're unsure whether you've had two doses, it's safe to have another."
The urgent health alert comes two days after another two cases of measles were detected in Western Sydney.
The two unrelated cases involved a teenager who had just returned from a trip to the Philippines and a man in his 30s who had returned from a holiday in Thailand.
According to NSW Health, 19 of the 25 measles cases in NSW since December were brought back from overseas.
Seven of the 19 were from the Philippines.
Measles symptoms can include sore eyes, a cough and a fever.
Three or four days after these symptoms present, red, botchy rashes can spread from the head and neck area through to the rest of the body.
"If you develop symptoms, please call ahead to your GP to ensure you do not wait in the waiting room with other patients," Dr Sheppeard said.
For more information, visit the NSW Health Department website.