Spike in measles cases prompts call for vaccine checks
Measles cases in Australia have jumped by two thirds in the last 12 months, new data published by the Australian Department of Health has revealed.
Figures from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System recorded 172 notifications of measles in Australia so far this year, an increase from the 103 cases reported in 2018.
While the viral infection is causing outbreaks across the globe, there have been confirmed cases in Perth, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Cairns.
As many people are preparing to travel – both domestically and internationally – the Australian Academy of Science is urging individuals to check their measles vaccinations are up to date.
The call follows the Australian Department of Health’s partnership with the Academy, which has seen the distribution of educational materials on the highly contagious and “sometimes deadly” disease.
Public health expert Professor David Durrheim from the University of Newcastle, who’s featured in the materials, said the most affected groups were Australians who are unprotected from the disease, travelling overseas to destinations where measles is spreading and bringing it back upon their return.
“The Philippines has had a very large outbreak with large numbers of deaths in young children. There have been outbreaks in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.”
Although measles is more common in parts of Africa and Asia where there’s limited access to vaccinations, outbreaks have also occurred in other corners of the world, including Europe, the United States and New Zealand.
Professor Ian Frazer from the University of Queensland said it takes one infected person to enter the country – and less than 95 per cent of the community immunised – for the virus to spread.
“It’s not just the unvaccinated who pose a risk to public health: many people in Australia may be under-vaccinated without realising it.
“Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide lifelong protection. Check your vaccination records and if in doubt about whether you’ve had two doses speak with your GP. It is safe to have another MMR vaccine if you don’t have evidence of a second dose. This ensures you’ve got the best possible protection.”