The New South Wales (NSW) health authority has issued a measles alert after it was notified of two confirmed cases who acquired their infection overseas.
The two visited several locations around Randwick and Rose Bay between July 15 and July 20, including the Prince of Wales hospital and Randwick shopping centre.
NSW Health emphasised that the listed locations do not pose any ongoing threat.
People who were in these areas at the same time as the positive cases should be alert for any signs of measles until Aug. 7, said Dr. Anthea Katelaris, assistant director of the South Eastern Sydney Public Health Unit.
“Symptoms of measles include fever, sore eyes, and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash which typically spreads from the head and neck to the rest of the body,” Dr. Katelaris said.
“It can take up to 18 days for symptoms to appear after an exposure, so it is really important to stay vigilant if you’ve been in the above locations.
“If you develop symptoms, please call ahead to your GP to ensure you do not spend time in the waiting room with other patients.”
NSW Health is urging people to be alert for signs and symptoms of measles after being notified of two confirmed cases of measles. Both cases are from the same family and acquired their infections overseas.
The cases visited several locations in Sydney while infectious. pic.twitter.com/4HfcupznX1
— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 21, 2023
Dr. Katelaris said people should check their vaccination status for the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which is available from GPs for all ages.
The vaccination can be administered in infants as young as 12 months old and is included as part of the national immunisation program for all Australian children.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread in the air through coughing and sneezing. Those with the disease can potentially spread it to up to 90 percent of the individuals they come into contact with. It also remains on surfaces for up to two hours after a person has left.
Victoria and Queensland were also put on measles alert on July 17 after a man who recently returned to Australia and was unknowingly infected visited both states.
Measles on the Rise
While the disease is rare in Australia, there have also been multiple large outbreaks currently occurring in many other parts of the world.
NSW and Victorian health authorities said people returning from overseas should be alert to any possible symptoms.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) similarly issued a health advisory in June ahead of the summer travel season for the same reason.
“Large and disruptive outbreaks (more than 20 reported measles cases per million population during a 12-month period) have been reported in the European, African, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Southeast Asian regions during 2023,” the CDC said.
The countries with the largest outbreaks are concentrated in Central Africa, South Asia, and Indonesia, according to CDC travel health notices.
The Australian health authorities follow the advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to encourage vaccination as the sole source of protection from the disease.
“Even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available, in 2021, there were an estimated 128 000 measles deaths globally, mostly among unvaccinated or under vaccinated children under the age of 5 years,” the WHO said.
It noted that global vaccination rates in one-year-old children for measles in 2021 reached the lowest level since 2008 due to set backs in immunisation efforts during COVID-19.
“The suspensions of immunization services and declines in immunization rates and surveillance across the globe left millions of children vulnerable to preventable diseases like measles,” it said.
According to microbiologist Dr. Sean Lin, a population’s overall health can also help with measles prevention.
“People tend to blame the surging of viral pathogens on poor sanitation conditions, failure of vaccination campaigns or infection controls, and international travel,” he said. “However, we must consider whether we are getting healthier with our current lifestyles. Are we consuming nutritious diets? Do we get sufficient rest and sleep? Are we doing anything that may harm our immune system knowingly or unknowingly?
“Relying solely on increasing vaccination campaigns may not be optimal for achieving herd immunity. Genuine herd immunity should be established more naturally via improving lifestyle, adopting a better diet, and implementing natural and holistic prevention approaches.”