The Department of Health and Human Services is asking the community to watch for signs and symptoms of measles.

Three cases of measles have been diagnosed in Victoria since the beginning of the year. Fifty-seven cases were diagnosed in Victoria during 2019. Almost all cases were in people who were not fully immunised against measles, who had either travelled overseas or been in contact with travellers from overseas in Victoria.

There are ongoing outbreaks of measles occurring in South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and Europe.

People who are not fully vaccinated or are unsure if they have received two doses are encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated.

On this page

What is the issue

Measles is a very contagious viral disease. There is an ongoing risk of infection in people travelling overseas, visitors, and migrant workers from outbreak affected areas. 

Who is at risk

Free measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is now available for people susceptible to measles. People who are not Medicare-eligible can also receive the free, state-funded, MMR vaccine.

The following  groups are at risk of measles:

  • Anyone planning overseas travel. Individuals planning overseas travel should ensure they have received vaccinations appropriate to that travel.
  • Any person born during or since 1966 and who does not have documented evidence of receiving two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or does not have documented evidence of immunity.
  • Unvaccinated infants. Infants are at particularly high risk of contracting measles. Infants as young as six months of age can receive MMR vaccine prior to travel overseas to countries where measles is endemic, or where measles outbreaks are occurring. The first dose of MMR vaccine is usually given at 12 months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule (NIP). If an infant receives an early dose of MMR vaccine (e.g. at 8 months) prior to travelling overseas, they are still required to receive their routine 12 month and 18 months doses in line with the NIP schedule. MMR vaccine is now free for infants aged 6 to 12 months travelling to measles-affected areas.

What you need to do

Make sure you’ve had two measles vaccinations. People who are not fully vaccinated or are unsure if they have received two doses are encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated now.

Free measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is now available for people susceptible to measles. People who are not Medicare-eligible can also receive the free, state-funded, MMR vaccine.

Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red eyes, coughing and sneezing, followed by a rash that spreads from the face down the body. Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other people.

Key messages

Measles is increasing around the world. There are large outbreaks of measles occurring in South East Asia, the Pacific Islands and Europe. 

  • Free measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is now available for people susceptible to measles. People who are not Medicare-eligible can also receive the free, state-funded, MMR vaccine
  • Measles is a highly contagious virus that lives in the nose and throat of an infected person and spreads through coughing and sneezing.  The measles virus is carried inside mucus or saliva droplets and remains alive for several hours outside the body. Up to 90 per cent of people in the same household who are not immune will contract the virus.
  • Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red eyes, coughing and sneezing, followed by a rash that spreads from the face down the body. 
  • Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other people.

Free measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is now available for people susceptible to measles. People who are not Medicare-eligible can also receive the free, state-funded, MMR vaccine. 

The following  groups are at risk of measles:

  • Anyone planning overseas travel. Individuals planning overseas travel should ensure they have received vaccinations appropriate to that travel.
  • Any person born during or since 1966 and who does not have documented evidence of receiving two doses of a measles-containing vaccine or does not have documented evidence of immunity.
  • Unvaccinated infants. Infants are at particularly high risk of contracting measles. Infants as young as six months of age can receive MMR vaccine prior to travel overseas to countries where measles is endemic, or where measles outbreaks are occurring. The first dose of MMR vaccine is usually given at 12 months of age as part of the National Immunisation Program Schedule (NIP). If an infant receives an early dose of MMR vaccine (e.g. at 8 months) prior to travelling overseas, they are still required to receive their routine 12 month and 18 months doses in line with the NIP schedule. MMR vaccine is now free for infants aged 6 to 12 months travelling to measles-affected areas.

Additional information

  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it; and about one out of every 15 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child in every 1,000 who gets measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with an intellectual disability.
  • Measles may cause still-birth or pregnant woman to give birth prematurely or have a low-birth-weight baby.

Can I get the measles vaccine for free?

The measles vaccine (given as the Measles-Mumps-Rubella or MMR vaccine) is offered free to children at 12 months and the second dose is delivered at 18 months of age (in the form of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella-Chickenpox vaccine). 

The second dose of MMR vaccine was introduced in January 1994. This means that people born from 1966 to the mid-1980s may have had only one dose of measles-containing vaccine.

Anyone born during or since 1966 who does not have documented evidence of having received two doses of a measles vaccine can now receive a free measles vaccine. People who are not Medicare-eligible can also receive the free, state-funded, MMR vaccine.

To find a clinic visit https://bit.ly/2VKVGFJ

More information

Take a look at the Measles frequently asked questions (Word).

View our videos on measles from Dr Angie Bone, Acting Chief Health Officer.

Visit the Better Health Channel  or Health.vic for information about measles.

Or visit health translations of translated Measles Community Fact Sheet.

Resources

Contacts

Call Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days). Call triple zero (000) in an emergency.

Where to go for help

  • Anyone developing symptoms is advised to ring ahead to their general practitioner or hospital first and tell them that they may have measles so that appropriate steps can be taken to avoid contact with other patients.
  • If you think you might have measles, it’s a good idea to stay away from other people as much as possible, particularly those who are unvaccinated or most at risk of serious illness, until you have been assessed by a doctor.