Public health warning: measles alert for south-west

South-west residents have been exposed to measles and are being urged to be on the alert for symptoms of the contagious disease.

The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday said an infected woman in her 20s had visited multiple sites along the Great Ocean Road between Geelong and Warrnambool on Wednesday, March 7.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton said many people may have been exposed to the virus.

“She is now being treated in hospital,” he said.

“People who develop illness over the next two weeks should alert their doctor or hospital emergency department.”

Measles has an incubation period of up to 18 days so those at risk of measles who visited these locations might show symptoms up until March 21.

Measles is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause serious illness, particularly in very young children and adults. People can develop pneumonia and other serious complications from the disease, and often need to be hospitalised.

The illness usually begins with common cold symptoms such as runny nose, red eyes and a cough, followed by fever and rash, Dr Sutton said.

“The characteristic measles rash usually begins 3-7 days after the first symptoms, generally starting on the face and then spreading to the rest of the body,” he said.

“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.”

The disease is now uncommon in Australia because of the widespread use of the measles vaccine.

Anyone who is unvaccinated is at risk of contracting measles. Adults aged between 26 and 52 have lower immunisation coverage than younger adults and children and therefore most cases are in this age group.

Most people over the age of 52 will have been exposed to measles in childhood, and therefore will be protected.

Dr Sutton said the woman visited these locations:

  Saturday, March 3 - Flinders Backpackers (Elizabeth Street, Melbourne), Flinders Street railway station, tram routes 16 and 96 to and from St. Kilda beach, St Kilda beach;

 Sunday March 4 – Flinders Backpackers, Coles Central (Flinders & Elizabeth St), McDonalds (Elizabeth St);

 Monday March 5 – Flinders Backpackers, Philip Island, Nobbies Visitor Centre Café;

 Tuesday March 6 – Flinders Backpackers, Westpac Bank (Elizabeth Street), Medicare office (Galleria Shopping Centre, Bourke Street); and

  Wednesday March 7 – Flinders Backpackers, multiple sites along the Great Ocean Road between Geelong and Warrnambool.

Further information about measles can be found at: