Measles spike warrants action

WITH a spike in measles cases occurring in NSW and overseas, Clarence Valley residents are being urged to make sure they are properly immunised against the virus.

NSW Health director of Health Protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said 66 cases of measles had been reported to NSW Health since the beginning of the year, which is in stark contrast to the 26 reported cases during 2010.

Dr McAnulty said there had been outbreaks of the virus reported in New Zealand, Western Europe and Asia and for this reason it was important to be prepared.

Measles was highly infectious and easily spread through coughing and sneezing and it could sometimes result in serious ear infections, pneumonia and - in rare cases - inflammation of the brain, he said.

"Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes. A rash develops after two to four days of symptoms, often starting on the face and spreading over the body," Dr McAnulty said.

Dr McAnulty advised anyone with these symptoms to contact their GP as soon as possible.

However, he said the best defence against measles was prevention and the vaccine (which also protected against mumps and rubella) was a safe and effective way to be protected.

"Two doses of the vaccine are recommended to give lifelong protection. Many young adults are at risk if they have never been immunised or if they only received one vaccine as a child," he said.

North Coast Director of Public Health Paul Corben said two cases of mumps had been reported in the Lismore area in the past few weeks and now was the time to get vaccinated and protected against all three of the viruses.

Mr Corben said rubella could be particularly dangerous for unborn babies whose mother had contracted the virus in the first trimester - he also said mumps had the potential to cause sterility in males in some cases.

NSW residents under the age of 45 can receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for free but Dr McAnulty encouraged anyone who hadn't been immunised to contact their GP for more information.

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