Further measles cases in Darwin

The outbreak of measles that began in mid-February has increased to eight cases. A further four cases have been confirmed in the past two days in the Darwin area.

Territorians are being asked to be aware of measles symptoms and to get their FREE measles containing vaccine, known as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, if they are not immune.

“It is not clear where the new cases acquired their disease as there is no direct link to the previous cases and no recent overseas travel,” said Dr Vicki Krause, Director at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

“Knowing how very contagious measles is, there are likely to be further people with symptoms of measles in Darwin now and for the next several weeks.”

Of the four new cases, two were teenagers and two were babies under two years old. One attended Palmerston Community Care Centre on Friday 15 March and then Roseberry Top End Medical Centre and Palmerston Regional Hospital on Saturday 16 March.

Another case was seen in Palmerston Regional Hospital Emergency Department on 17 March and had been attending Palmerston Christian School in the days prior to diagnosis.

CDC is working with the school to provide information and follow-up to students and staff as required. Additionally the case attended several dance classes in the Palmerston area and also at the Entertainment Centre in Darwin as well as visiting Gateway and Bunnings in Palmerston.

The two most recently diagnosed cases both attended Palmerston Regional Hospital on 18 March.

CDC is in the process of contacting people who may have had contact with these cases to provide information and offer preventive treatment or immunisation as appropriate.

It is not possible to capture all places of exposure and the public need to be reminded that if you are not immune to measles, it can be caught easily in public places such as shopping centres, pharmacies, doctors’ waiting rooms, cafes etc. Recent cases spent extensive time at Big W at Gateway Palmerston on Sunday 17 March and throughout Gateway and Casuarina shopping malls over the past four days.

“To be immune to measles you must have either previously had measles, had two doses of the measles-containing vaccine, known as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine (the vaccine is given as part of the routine national vaccination schedule at 12 months and at 18 months). For people born between 1966 and 1996, you may have only had one dose and should check your records to see if you have had two vaccines,” Dr Krause said.

If you are not immune to measles or cannot confirm that you are it is recommended that you attend your vaccine provider today to request a free MMR vaccine.

Measles is a very contagious viral illness that is spread between people through coughing and sneezing.

The symptoms of measles are fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, which usually occur 7-10 days after exposure to a case, followed a few days later by a red blotchy rash which often starts on the face and then becomes widespread over the body.

“If you think you or someone you are caring for might have measles, make sure you call ahead to the medical practice before you attend, so that staff there can take the necessary precautions to avoid potential spread to others.”

Up to one third of people infected with measles will experience a complication. Complications are more common in children and young adults and include ear infections, diarrhoea, pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and may require hospitalisation.

For further information about measles visit https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/health-conditions-treatments/viral/measles