Overnight, New South Wales announced another two cases of measles bringing its total “since Christmas” to 30 cases. Today Queensland announced another two as well. But perhaps more worrying is the very sudden but much quieter measles outbreak happening in the Northern Territory (NT). Measles hot spots are popping up all over Australia.
In 2014, Australia was officially certified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having eliminated measles. Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease, and Australia has good vaccine uptake.
The cases Australia detects begin when an infected visitor or citizen returning from travel to countries without sufficient vaccine coverage. Sometimes, those cases pass the infection to others within Australia who are not adequately immunised. This transmission is especially obvious when it occurs in a pocket of unvaccinated people. Our high vaccine coverage means this doesn’t happen very often. But 2019 is turngin out to be a busy one.
2019 is seeing quite a few new measles cases
Measles hot spots have popped up all over Australia. Victoria is up to 9 cases for 2019 , South Australia has had 2 , Western Australia reports 15 , 1 has been reported from the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland has reported 9-11 [7-9] and Tasmania remains measles-free in 2019. Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory recently reported 23 cases. These aren’t all worryingly unusual numbers overall, but some are, and some are high for this early in the year.
Measles cases in Australian States and Territories.
Data from the
NATIONAL NOTIFIABLE DISEASES SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM
Is the Darwin outbreak still going?
The Northern Territory produced a series of media releases from early March, detailing a rapid rise in new Measles cases.
The first case was reported February 7th. This was a Darwin resident returning from travel to Vietnam. They visited the Palmerston Regional Hospital on the 15th and 17th of February. The second case also visited that hospital. The next media update, March 19, listed eight cases – four of them having been confirmed in the preceding two days. There were no direct links between the previous and new cases.
The March 26th update listed 12 cases, all from around the local area. The last update, March 28, described 23 cases and noted that initial measles-mumps-rubella vaccinations would now include 9-12-month-old babies, thus dropping the age at which the first of two vaccine doses are given by three months. This final update noted that most cases so far were in adults. There were “well over” 1,000 contacts of cases.
Measles in the Northern Territory has been showing a worrying rate of new cases.
But that last report was over a week ago. Given how steep the curve (above) was up until the 28th, it’s very tempting to think that there have been more cases since then. But the national figures also haven’t moved so perhaps the outbreak was very quaikcly contained.
It is important to find out what’s happening in the NT. Messaging helps remind the local population about vaccination and boosters. Communication also alerts the rest of the country to the degree of risk to expect from travelling to, and in travellers from, the Darwin area.
There are a lot of causes of fever and rash. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down a likely culprit in the early stages of a disease. Travel and contact history help inform initial laboratory testing and management of patients. Knowing that travel from within Australia could be a factor – not just from a known overseas measles hotspot – is important information to have.
- Fresh alert as measles cases hit 30
- Elimination of endemic measles transmission in Australia
- Vaccine preventable diseases summary | Victoria State Government
- Measles case in Adelaide
- Measles Notifications | Department of Health, WA Government
- Health alert: Measles case notified in Canberra
- Notifiable conditions reports: Summary information | Queensland Govt, Queensland Health
- National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) | Commonwealth of Australia
- Health authorities warn of a measles outbreak in Queensland’s north
- Third Annual Meeting of the Regional Verification Commission for Measles Elimination in the Western Pacific | WHO WPRO
- Measles Update – Vaccination program extended
- Measles alert
- Further measles cases in Darwin
- Update – Measles outbreak