Measles cases double in past year
AUSTRALIA has experienced almost double the number of measles cases this year compared to last year, hampering plans to eliminate the disease.
Dr Robert Menzies, deputy director (surveillance) at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Sydney, said the outbreaks were due to poor vaccination coverage among young adults, a cohort with a high rate of overseas travel, and pockets of low coverage in some communities.
Between January and September this year 136 measles cases were notified in Australia, compared to 70 cases in 2010.
Some 61% of cases (82 individuals) were unvaccinated, including nine children aged younger than 12 months.
“Lots of countries overseas have [outbreaks] and it is setting back our plans to eliminate measles,” Dr Menzies said.
“We’re aiming to eliminate it in the western Pacific by next year, but those plans are not going to come to fruition.”
Australians born in the 1970s and ’80s when only one vaccine dose was given were of concern as they had low coverage and were also likely to be travellers, he said.
“We do encourage people to be vaccinated if they are going to travel overseas if they haven’t already received two doses of measles vaccine,” he said.
Despite widespread global outbreaks, experts believed it was unlikely measles would “take off” in Australia and cause an epidemic.
“Although this year there have been more outbreaks, our modelling is telling us that our coverage is high enough... We’re at about 90% of kids getting two doses,” he said.
So far this year NSW has had 71 cases, Victoria 31, Queensland 16, WA nine, NT three, SA three, ACT two and Tasmania one.