Measles warning issued for Mid North Coast

THE North Coast Public Health Unit has been notified of a case of measles in an unvaccinated child resident of the Coffs Harbour-Woolgoolga area and anticipates that other cases may emerge over coming days.

Mr Paul Corben, Director of North Coast Public Health Unit, said that measles is highly infectious among people who are not fully immunised.

Anyone in the Coffs Harbour-Woolgoolga area who is not protected against measles should be alert for symptoms, particularly those who were in Woolgoolga on August 28 or in the Coffs Harbour central business district on August 29 or 30.

As the investigation is ongoing, other places and times of potential exposure may be identified.

Mr Corben said anyone who was in these locations should watch for symptoms.

"The time from exposure to the disease and the onset of symptoms is typically about 10 days but can be as long as 18 days so people should be alert to symptoms until 17 September," Mr Corben said.

Measles symptoms include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

Mr Corben said infants under 12 months of age who are too young to be vaccinated and young adults are most likely to be susceptible to measles.

"People in the 20-40 year age bracket may have missed out on the full vaccination program for measles - as it was changed during the 1990's to include a second dose with a national school based catch up - and mistakenly believe they are protected against the disease.

"The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is safe and highly effective protection against measles, and is available for free for those aged one to 52 from your GP. If you are unsure whether you have had two doses, it is quite safe to have another dose."

Protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, which has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.

The latest Annual Immunisation Coverage Report shows vaccination rates in NSW are at their highest level ever, with more than 94 per cent of five year olds vaccinated against measles.

NSW children at one and five years of age have some of the highest measles vaccine uptake in Australia, boosted by programs including the:

  • Save the Date app campaign ($5.5 million invested since 2013)
  • Aboriginal Immunisation Health Worker program ($1.3 million annually)
  • New NSW Government laws that came in on 1 January preventing parents who object to vaccination from enrolling their children in preschools and early childhood centres.

Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.

Mr Corben said it was important for people to see the GP if they have symptoms, and limit exposure to others until the GP has made a diagnosis.

"Our public health unit staff are contacting people known to have been in contact with this latest case to offer preventive injections, where appropriate," Mr Corben said.

"Vaccination is your best protection against this extremely contagious disease."

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

For more information on measles, click here.