Measles cases flying in from NZ

MEASLES cases in Queensland continue to mount with the latest patients diagnosed in Cairns, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

So far this year, more than 40 cases of the highly contagious virus have been recorded in Queensland, about three times the 14 diagnosed for the whole of last year.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young is particularly concerned about the numbers of people flying into the state from New Zealand with measles, which is experiencing an epidemic of the potentially serious disease.


Measles has reached epidemic status in New Zealand this year with more than 1800 cases recorded, many in the Auckland region. Picture: istock
Measles has reached epidemic status in New Zealand this year with more than 1800 cases recorded, many in the Auckland region. Picture: istock

Dr Young said that in the past three weeks, more than half a dozen Queenslanders had been diagnosed with measles after recently visiting New Zealand, which has recorded more than 1800 cases this year.

"Travellers planning on visiting New Zealand in the near future should ensure they are up to date with their vaccinations," she said.

"It is also important that contacts of people who have recently returned or are returning from New Zealand ensure their measles vaccinations are up to date to prevent contracting measles from a returned traveller who is infected."

Measles is one of the most infectious of all communicable diseases and is spread by tiny droplets formed through coughing and sneezing.

Potentially fatal complications include pneumonia and encephalitis, inflammation of the brain.

Vaccination is the best protection against measles.


Tropical Public Health Services director Richard Gair has warned people the latest measles case in Cairns was unknowingly infectious while on the Sunbus between Smithfield to Cairns and back again on October 11, 12 and 13.

"People who visited Skydive Cairns at Portsmith may also have a small risk of being exposed to the virus," Dr Gair said.

A New Zealander visiting the Sunshine Coast with measles may also have exposed people while staying at Noosa Heads.

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service public health unit director Rosie Muller said the man visited Hastings Street and Noosa Beach between October 5 and 9 while not knowing he was infectious.

"We urge anyone who was at these locations during this period to ensure they are protected against measles and to seek medical advice if they develop symptoms," Dr Muller said.

If people fear they have measles, they should call ahead before visiting a medical practice to warn staff they may have the virus so that precautions can be taken to avoid the infection spreading.

Measles symptoms include fever, fatigue, runny nose, a moist cough and sore, red eyes followed a few days later by a blotchy red rash.

The rash starts on the face then spreads.