Reports of a confirmed case of measles in South Australia sparked fear of a potential outbreak. The case involved a young boy who had visited several public places. At the same time, he was infectious, including at an Adelaide swimming centre and several healthcare facilities released by SA Health, according to 9NEWS. People who may have been in contact with the boy during his infectious period have been advised to monitor for symptoms and seek medical attention if they develop any measles signs.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that can spread quickly through a community and, in some cases, can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death. The article also highlights the importance of vaccination in preventing measles outbreaks.
Overview of Measles Cases in Australia
In Australia, measles is a notifiable disease, which means that healthcare providers must report all suspected and confirmed cases to the public health authorities. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, there were 1,232 confirmed cases of measles reported in Australia in 2019. This was a significant increase compared to the previous year, with only 103 cases reported.
Most of the cases in 2019 were in the eastern states of Australia, with New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland being the most affected. The outbreak was attributed mainly to low vaccination rates in some communities, which allowed the virus to spread quickly.
What is Measles?
Measles is a highly infectious viral disease spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. The virus can spread quickly through the air and survive on surfaces for up to two hours. Measles can be particularly dangerous for:
- Young children
- People with weakened immune systems
Understanding Who Is Most Vulnerable to the Disease
Measles can affect people of all ages, but it is most common in children under five. People not vaccinated against the virus are more likely to contract the disease. In addition, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and people who have recently travelled to areas with a high prevalence of measles are also at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Measles
Measles can cause a range of symptoms that typically appear 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. The initial symptoms can be similar to those of a:
- common cold, including fever
- runny nose
- red, watery eyes
After a few days, small white spots may appear in the mouth and throat. A few days later, a rash will develop, typically starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body. The rash is usually red and raised, and it may become itchy.
How is a measles rash different from an allergic rash?
Rash from allergies can appear suddenly, usually within minutes to hours after exposure to an allergen, and can be localised or widespread. The rash can be red and raised or flat, and it may be accompanied by itching, swelling, and blistering. It can also disappear quickly if the allergen is removed.
Another difference is that a measles rash typically appears with other symptoms, while an allergic rash may not be associated with other symptoms.
Complications of Measles
Complications can occur in anyone contracting the disease, some of which can be serious and even life-threatening. Below are some known examples.
Measles can cause middle ear infections, leading to hearing loss if left untreated.
It is characterised as an infection of the lungs.
This is an inflammation of the brain that can lead to seizures, deafness, and intellectual disability.
Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE)
SSPE is a rare complication of measles that can occur several years after the initial infection. It is a progressive neurological disorder that can lead to seizures, coma, and death.
Is Measles Immunisation a Problem in Australia?
In recent years, measles vaccination has become a concern in Australia. While overall immunisation rates in the country are high, there are pockets of the population where rates are lower, which has led to measles outbreaks in some areas.
One of the main reasons for this is misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. This has led to a small but vocal anti-vaccine movement in Australia, which has spread false information about vaccines.
In addition, access to healthcare and immunisation services can also be a problem, particularly in rural or remote areas where healthcare facilities may be limited. This can make it difficult for some people to receive vaccines.
The Australian government has taken steps to address these issues, including implementing a national immunisation program that provides free vaccines to children and increasing public awareness campaigns about the importance of vaccination.
How Do I Prevent Measles?
Preventing measles is primarily a matter of getting vaccinated. The measles vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent the disease, and it is recommended for all children and adults who have not already been vaccinated. The vaccine is typically given as part of a routine childhood immunisation schedule, with the first dose given at 12-15 months of age and a second dose given at 4-6 years of age.
For adults who have yet to be vaccinated or are unsure of their vaccination status, speaking with a healthcare provider about receiving the vaccine is recommended, this is especially important for those who are travelling to areas with high rates of measles or who work in healthcare settings where they may be at higher risk of exposure.
Other steps can be taken to prevent the spread of measles, such as:
- Practising good hand hygiene by washing hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and disposing of tissues properly.
- Avoiding contact with others if you are sick or have been exposed to someone with measles.
- Staying up-to-date on recommended vaccinations and getting booster shots as needed.
As a certified first aid practitioner, it is important to recognise the signs and take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of infection at work or in communities, as well as the development of serious health consequences. Be up-to-date on the latest guidelines and best first aid practices by enrolling in courses at CPR First Aid RTO NO. 21903.