Recent outbreaks of measles in Australia and overseas are a reminder that this serious disease is still common in many other countries. Most cases in Australia are either acquired abroad or have been spread to ­non-immune local residents by foreign visitors or returning travellers.

In 2010 there were 70 cases of measles ­reported in Australia. In 2011, that number was almost doubled by September.

Measles is a highly infectious viral infection spread by coughing and sneezing. It begins with a fever, feeling unwell (malaise), dry cough, runny nose and red eyes (conjunctivitis). A red, blotchy rash then typically develops on the face and neck and spreads to the body.

Measles is a serious and sometimes fatal infection. Complications are more common and more severe in adults, people with a chronic illness and children under 5 and include:

  • Middle ear infections and diarrhoea
  • Pneumonia, a lung infection which causes about 60% of measles deaths
  • Encephalitis (brain infection) which can also be fatal and can leave survivors with brain damage
  • Pregnancy problems. Measles can cause miscarriage or premature birth.

Who is most at risk of measles?

Those most at risk are infants

Low immunity is of particular concern for healthcare workers, those who work with ­children or women planning pregnancy.

International travellers are also vulnerable. Reported cases of measles have ­increased c­onsiderably in many European countries in 2011. Closer to home, New Zealand, Singapore and China have also had outbreaks.

Ask your GP about your risk of measles. For more information go to

This article is sponsored by GSK Australia


  • Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
  • For up to date information, speak to your doctor.
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