Sarah Harvey

Qld measles outbreak prompts warning to 10,000 parents

A MEASLES outbreak which has included 11 cases in Ipswich alone has prompted Queensland's chief doctor to write to 10,000 parents whose children have not been vaccinated.

Fairfax reports is it is first time that 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.

In the letter Dr Young writes: "You may be aware there is currently an outbreak of measles in some parts of Queensland, and particularly the south east. 

"I am concerned that your child may not be adequately protected from this serious disease and would urge you to contact your immunisation provider as soon as possible to arrange for your child to be vaccinated.

"Measles is an acute, highly infectious illness which can cause serious complications such as pneumonia (lung infection) or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). It may also cause middle ear infection.

"Complications are more common and more severe in people with a chronic illness, very young
children and adults. Measles should not be regarded as a simple mild disease.

"Immunisation is the most effective way to prevent measles. Two doses of measles containing
vaccine are needed to provide a high level of protection.'' 

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.

In 2009, 32 people were diagnosed with measles in the Sunshine Coast area.

In Ipswich, Queensland Health officials have been pleading with Gen-Y residents to get the measles vaccination after an 11th case of the disease was confirmed.

The warning comes after 10 of the 11 confirmed measles cases in Ipswich had occurred in adults who were born after 1966.

Public health physician Dr Heidi Carroll said many adults in their late 20s and early 30s mistakenly believe that they have been vaccinated for measles.

"This may be because measles vaccine wasn't universally available to all children in Australia until the late 1980s and early 1990s," she said.

"Adults who were born in 1966 or later and who do not have documentation of having received measles vaccine, or having had the infection, are particularly at risk of contracting the disease.

"If in doubt, the message is to get vaccinated to help prevent you from contracting measles."

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