Thursday, February 6, 2014

Valley visitor sparks measles alert

A TOURIST with measles who visited Tasmania briefly at the end of January this year may have introduced the highly contagious infection to the state, including the Derwent Valley. Population Health Service senior medical advisor Mark Veitch today warned Tasmanians and recent visitors to the south of the state to watch out for measles symptoms during the first three weeks of February and consult a doctor if concerned.

“Measles usually starts with a fever, cough, sore red eyes and a runny nose about 10 days after contact with a person with measles,” Dr Veitch said. “A blotchy rash appears several days after the fever and people with measles are usually quite unwell. People with measles-like symptoms should see a doctor, but it is very important they call ahead so they can be seen without putting other patients and staff at risk of infection.”

Dr Veitch said the infected tourist arrived at Hobart Airport on January 30 between 9am and 10am and departed Hobart Airport on the morning of February 2. The infected person was a guest at the Hobart Tower Hotel and travelled to other areas in southern Tasmania, including Richmond, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and Mt Wellington (on January 30); Mt Field National Park and the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (on 31 January 31); and Port Arthur (on February 1).

“People without immunity to measles who were at these places at around these times may have been at risk of catching measles. The risk of measles to the wider population is small, but a small number of non-immune people might have caught measles. If so their symptoms would probably start between today, February 6 and February 20,” Dr Veitch said.

GPs and Emergency Departments have been asked to be vigilant for people who may have measles. “People born before 1966 are probably immune from measles as are people who have had two doses of measles vaccine. It’s a very good idea for young and middle-aged adults who are uncertain of their immunity to discuss having a measles vaccine booster with their doctor,” Dr Veitch said.

People with measles can spread their infection from just before they get symptoms until about four days after their rash starts. Dr Veitch said people with measles should stay away from public places, including school and work, until their doctor advises them they can resume normal activities.

There have been no cases of measles in Tasmania since 2009. There were 200 cases in mainland Australia over the past 12 months, either caught overseas, or caught from someone who was infected overseas.

More information, including a Public Health Alert and a Fact Sheet are available at: www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/peh/alerts/current_health_alerts/measles_alert

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