New measles cases suspected in Far North


TWO more measles cases are likely to be confirmed in the Far North, as an outbreak of the vaccine-preventable disease threatens to spread further across the region.

Public health officials have urged people who are unvaccinated to be immunised immediately, and to be alert for symptoms to prevent a wider outbreak of the infectious disease, following two new suspected cases emerging in Cairns and Mission Beach.

To date, there has been three cases of measles confirmed across the region since October 3.

Tropical Public Health Services director Dr Richard Gair said one of the latest cases lived at Mission Beach, who was unknowingly infectious and had visited Malanda on the weekend of October 19-20.

This included the Malanda markets on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20, and the Malanda cinema on the morning of October 20.

The other suspected case is from Cairns.

"If these cases are confirmed, it will bring the total number of cases of measles in the Cairns region to five in the last few weeks," Dr Gair said.

Anyone who is not immune to measles should be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.

This includes: fever; lethargy; runny nose; moist cough; sore red eyes; followed a few days later by a blotchy, red rash which often starts on the face and then becomes widespread over the body.

A case of measles on a young baby. Picture: istock
A case of measles on a young baby. Picture: istock

Symptoms usually start about 10 days after exposure to a case, but can occur between 7-18 days after contact.

Those who are unwell and think they may have measles are urged to contact a medical practice first before visiting in person, in order to allow staff to take precautions to avoid spreading it to others when you arrive at the practice.

"Measles is a highly infectious and serious viral infection," Dr Gair said.

"It is spread by tiny droplets in the air or by contact with infected secretions from the nose or mouth."

Anyone born after 1965, who has not had two documented doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine - or had proven measles - is encouraged to visit their local family doctor to get vaccinated for measles.

There is currently an outbreak of measles in New Zealand.