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Travelling soon? Health authorities urge you to get a measles vaccine

“The Philippines has had a very large outbreak, with large numbers of deaths in young children, and there have been outbreaks in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia,” Professor Durrheim said.

Closer to home there has been a number of recent measles alerts in Australia as well, confirmed cases in Perth, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Cairns.

On Thursday there was an alert for a woman who was infectious with measles travelling from Brisbane airport to the Sunshine Coast for several days after arriving from New Zealand.

A new public health campaign is urging people to get vaccinated against measles, especially if you're travelling overseas.

A new public health campaign is urging people to get vaccinated against measles, especially if you’re travelling overseas.Credit:Australian Academy of Science

The Perth outbreak, which has seen 11 cases so far, is also linked to the current outbreak in New Zealand, which is currently experiencing what’s been described as the worst outbreak of the disease there for two decades.

Disease expert and AAS fellow Professor Ian Frazer, from the University of Queensland, said outbreaks could start from just one person arriving back in the country with the disease.

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“It’s not just the unvaccinated who pose a risk to public health; many people in Australia may be under-vaccinated without realising it,” Professor Frazer said.

“Those most at risk of developing complications tend to be the same people who are unable to be vaccinated against the disease, so it’s crucial that others in the community are fully immunised to prevent the spread of disease to the most vulnerable in our society.”

A 95 per cent immunity rate in the general population is considered to give “herd immunity” to the rest of the population in the case of measles.

Australia’s immunisation rate for the MMR vaccine is currently 93 per cent, according to health department figures.

In an effort to lift that, the new campaign is seeking to get people to have another dose of the MMR vaccine, even if people think they are covered.

“Two doses of the MMR vaccine provide lifelong protection. Check your vaccination records and if in doubt about whether you’ve had two doses speak with your GP,” Professor Frazer said.

“It is safe to have another MMR vaccine if you don’t have evidence of a second dose – this ensures you’ve got the best possible protection.”

People under 20 years of age, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age, can get measles vaccines for free through the National Immunisation Program if they did not receive the vaccines in childhood.

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