Chief doctor writes to parents to encourage vaccinations

Measles warning from top doctor

The Australian Medical Association backs Queensland's chief doctor who has written to more than 10,000 parents whose children have not had measles vaccinations.

Queensland's chief doctor has taken the extraordinary step of writing to more than 10,000 Queensland parents whose children have not been vaccinated as authorities battle a measles outbreak.

For the first time, Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young teamed with the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register to help identify children who have not been properly vaccinated.

According to the register, 13,117 Queensland children aged between four and six years have not been properly vaccinated against measles.

Measles causes fever, cough and a runny nose, then a red spotty rash and sore eyes.
Measles causes fever, cough and a runny nose, then a red spotty rash and sore eyes. 

Dr Young said the register was working to identify more children, under the age of four, who have not been vaccinated.

“Immunisation is the most effective way to prevent measles and two doses of measles vaccine are needed to provide a high level of protection," she said.

Dr Young said more than 90 per cent of children were fully vaccinated in most areas of Queensland.

“While 90 per cent vaccinated sounds good, it is important to remember that leaves up to 10 per cent of children who aren't properly protected against measles,” she said.

Vaccination rates are much lower on the Gold and Sunshine coasts, where more than one in 10 children have either not been immunised at all, or have missed some of their scheduled vaccinations.

There were only four measles cases in Queensland last year, but since August 2013, 16 people have contracted measles in southeast Queensland.

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A 10-month-old baby is among those who have been struck down by the highly contagious disease. Two people have also been hospitalised.

The highest infection rate has been in Ipswich, where six people have been diagnosed. There have been two cases in Caboolture and single cases in Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and South Brisbane. The remaining cases have been visitors to the state.

Early symptoms of measles include runny nose, cough, red eyes, aches and pains and then fever. About one third of adults who contract measles require hospitalisation.

"If you have these symptoms, even if you don't have a rash, you may have measles. Stay home and talk to your GP [over the phone] about getting tested and diagnosed," Dr Young said.

WA cases reported 

Bali holidaymakers have been warned to watch for measles symptoms after four West Australian travellers contracted the disease in the past week after returning from Indonesia.

The WA Health Department director of communicable disease control Paul Armstrong said people were also potentially exposed to infection at general practice surgeries where the infected cases were seen.

He said other risk areas were pathology collection centres and emergency departments at Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner and Armadale-Kelmscott hospitals.