15 April, 2016

Measles Outbreak……Are you or your Children at Risk?

In the past twelve months, there have been 41 reported cases of measles in Victoria, 21 of which occurred more recently in an outbreak in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.

What is measles?
Measles is a highly infectious virus causing a range of symptoms including flu-like muscle aches, fever, loss of appetite, a widespread rash including spots in the mouth, runny nose and eyes, sore throat and cough. It can also lead to long term and potentially fatal complications by infecting the lungs, ears and brain. It’s mode of transmission is from person-to-person via droplet spread from coughing and sneezing, as the virus is present within salivary and respiratory secretions. The virus can survive for up to two hours in a closed space where an infected person has coughed or sneezed. People can contract and spread the virus for several days before they even know that they are unwell.

The good news is that Measles is a vaccine-PREVENTABLE disease. All children are eligible for the 2 dose vaccination course administered before the age of 18 months as part of the routine Australian childhood vaccination schedule. However, vaccination is not limited to childhood and can be given at any age.

Why are we still seeing outbreaks of measles?
Despite a sharp decline in the number of measles cases following the introduction of vaccination in Australia in 1969, in recent decades there has been a worryingly small but growing trend amongst mothers choosing to not vaccinate their children, and as a result an increases in disease. For a vaccine to be effective, approximately 95% of the population must be vaccinated to create what is known as “herd immunity” to contain transmission and protect all. In nearly half of Australia’s suburbs, there is less than this required minimum to protect against outbreaks of this potentially deadly disease. We each have a collective responsibility to protect ourselves and others.

Who is most susceptible to measles?
2 doses of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine are required to protect against measles. These doses are given to Australian children at ages 12 and 18 months.

Anyone who is unvaccinated or under vaccinated is susceptible to disease. This includes:

– Children < 12months of age, prior to commencing their vaccination course

– Anyone at any age suffering with disorders of immunity, even if previously immunised or infected with the disease in the past.

– Anyone choosing not to vaccinate, or not complete their vaccination course

– Adults between the ages of 35 and 49 who only ever received a single dose of vaccine, as was the recommendation at the time.

If you are unsure whether you are fully immunised against measles, we will assist in locating past records, and if necessary, arrange a blood test to determine your immune status. Feel free to discuss this with your doctor as it is never too late to be immunised