A child has become the third person diagnosed with measles in Sydney in five days, as health authorities warn the public to watch for symptoms of the highly infectious disease.
On Wednesday evening NSW Health reported it had been notified that a child had presented to Royal North Shore Hospital's emergency department with measles.
The department was confirming the child's recent movements and would update the public on the risk of exposure as soon as details were confirmed.
Earlier on Wednesday afternoon NSW Health reported a woman with the infectious disease had recently spent time in public areas in Sydney and the Central Coast.
NSW Health is expecting more cases could arise, with the unknowingly infected people frequenting busy public locations before they were diagnosed.
The woman from the ACT was unknowingly infectious when she stopped in at several public locations between December 26 and December 30, according to NSW Health.
She was at the following locations while infectious:
- McDonald’s Thornleigh between 12.30-1pm on Boxing Day;
- Deepwater Plaza Woy Woy and Umina Beach Shopping Centre between Boxing Day and 30 December 30;
- Jasmine Cafe, Umina Beach between 9 and 10.30am on December 30
NSW Health reported an earlier case of measles on December 29. The young Sydney man, who has since recovered, was diagnosed with the disease after returning from Thailand.
The man visited several crowded locations leading up to Christmas, including the David Jones store in Sydney's CBD David Jones, Bondi, Chippendale and Rosebery.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, director communicable diseases at NSW Health, said anyone who was at McDonald's Thornleigh or the Central Coast locations at the same time should watch for symptoms.
“The time from exposure to the disease to the onset of symptoms is typically about 10 days but can be as long as 18 days, so people should be alert to symptoms until mid-January," Dr Sheppeard said.
“Medical and public health staff are contacting people known to have been in contact with this latest case to offer preventive injections, where appropriate."
Measles is highly contagious and is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.
Symptoms include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.
“NSW Health is expecting further measles cases could arise as both the ACT and NSWcases have been in busy public places prior to being diagnosed,” Dr Sheppeard said.
She said babies under 12 months of age who are too young to be vaccinated and young adults are most likely to be susceptible to measles.
“People in the 20-40 year age bracket may have missed out on the full vaccination program for measles and mistakenly believe they are protected against the disease,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Australia's National Immunisation Program and free measles vaccination have been credited with measles elimination and strong herd immunity that makes it difficult for the disease to spread.
The vaccination rate for five-year-olds is currently 94 per cent.
But measles can piggyback its way to Australia via travellers who have contracted the infectious condition in countries where it is still prevalent.
The woman caught the infection from another ACT resident who had contracted measles during a trip overseas, Dr Sheppeard said.
NSW Health recorded 18 measles infections, including seven children under the age of five, in 2018.
Dr Sheppeard urged anyone travelling to South-East Asia to see their GP for a free measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination if they are not fully protected.
“If you are unsure whether you have had two doses, it is quite safe to have another dose before you travel,” she said.
Dr Sheppeard said it was important for people to see the GP if they have symptoms, and limit exposure to others until the GP has made a diagnosis.
“If you develop symptoms please call ahead to your GP so that you do not wait in the waiting room with other patients,” Dr Sheppeard said. “Vaccination is your best protection against this extremely contagious disease.”