Western Australia measles warning

The West Australian Department of Health has issued an alert following notification of five cases of measles in Western Australia over the Easter period.

Communicable Disease Control Director Dr Paul Van Buynder said all of the cases had occurred in unimmunised children who had attended workshops held by the AMMA (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) group in Fremantle at the end of March.

"The measles virus appears to have been introduced by people attending the workshops and has then spread to others within the group who were unimmunised," he said.

"We are advising all people under 40 years of age who attended this workshop, and who have not received two doses of vaccine, to contact their medical practitioner or the Department of Health on 9388 4999."

Measles is an infectious viral illness that can cause serious disease. The early symptoms of measles are fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes. A red blotchy rash follows about three days later, starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

Complications following measles infection can be very serious and may include ear infections and pneumonia in about one in every 25 cases.

Approximately one person in every 2,000 who contracts measles will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

Dr Van Buynder advised anybody who developed measle-like symptoms to seek medical care and to alert their general practitioner when making an appointment.

"This will enable the practice to isolate them when they arrive at the surgery and prevent the potential spread of measles to other patients," he said.

Dr Van Buynder said measles was an extremely infectious disease but that vaccination was an effective form of prevention.

"The disease is spread easily by coughing and sneezing among large groups of unimmunised people but immunisation is very effective in preventing measles," he said.

"The vaccine is available from general practitioners or immunisation providers and homeopathic remedies do not provide protection against measles.

"For those born after 1966, two doses of measles containing vaccine are required."

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