Travellers warned of measles in SE Asia

Health authorities today (November 20) warned Tasmanians travelling to Bali and other parts of South East Asia to ensure they are fully vaccinated against measles circulating in the region.

Population Health's Dr Scott McKeown cautioned the many school-leavers and university students heading to Bali or Thailand for end-of-year celebrations to ensure they were fully vaccinated against measles.

"Measles can be a severe disease causing complications ranging from painful middle ear infections to pneumonia and inflammation of the brain," Dr McKeown said.

"Measles is highly contagious and spreads easily through coughing and sneezing or direct contact with nose or mouth secretions."

Dr McKeown said measles vaccinations were readily available from GPs and travel clinics.

"While Tasmania has no recorded measles cases so far this year, 134 Australians have contracted the disease," Dr McKeown said.

"Vaccination offers safe protection against measles.

"Anyone born since 1966 who has never had measles or a measles vaccination should get at least one dose before travelling and a second at least one month later.

"If you're travelling within the next month, have your first dose before you go and the second when you return.

"It is safe to have the vaccine more than twice, so anyone unsure whether they're vaccinated should get a dose."

Dr McKeown said travellers returning from overseas should watch out for measles symptoms: fever, cough and sore red eyes that last several days before a red, blotchy rash appears.

"A person with measles is very sick.

"People should watch out for measles symptoms for up to 18 days after they return home. Others can catch measles from an infected person before from before the rash appears until four days after."

Returning travellers who develop measles symptoms should avoid putting others at risk by staying away from public places such as work, school, child care, shops and public transport.

Dr McKeown advised people who think they may have measles to see a doctor, preferably their GP, as soon as possible to confirm a diagnosis.

"Please call the surgery ahead of attending to alert them to your symptoms so they can arrange to assess you without infecting others," Dr McKeown said.

Updated advice for travellers is on the Australian Government's Smartraveller website

20 November 2013