Measles Outbreaks 2019

This page contains information for travellers about the current outbreaks of measles overseas.

Page last updated: 20 November 2019

2019 Outbreak of Measles in New Zealand

There is a current and ongoing outbreak of measles in New Zealand, with a high proportion of cases reported from the Auckland region. The New Zealand Ministry of Health is prioritising vaccination of at-risk groups including children under five years of age, people aged 15 – 29 years, Pacific peoples within those groups, children under 15 years of age who have not had a single dose of the vaccine, and babies aged 6 months and older who reside in Auckland.

The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends people intending to travel to New Zealand should be fully immunised for measles. If additional vaccination is required, it should be administered at least two weeks before arriving in New Zealand. People who aren’t immune and have early symptoms of measles (fever, cough, runny nose, sore eyes and/or a rash) should not travel.

More information about measles in New Zealand can be found at the New Zealand Ministry of Health 2019 measles outbreak information webpage.

2019 Outbreak of Measles in Samoa

Following the confirmation of seven measles cases, Samoa declared a measles epidemic on 16 October 2019. An Australian team of health professionals has been deployed to Samoa to support the Samoan Ministry of Health with their outbreak response activities.

On 16th November, the Government of Samoa proclaimed a State of Emergency, with respect to the outbreak. Visiting restrictions are in place at Samoa's hospitals and clinics in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

2019 Outbreak of Measles in Tonga

On 23 October 2019 Tonga declared a measles outbreak after a team of Tongan rugby players contracted the disease during a trip to New Zealand. There is currently no evidence of ongoing community transmission as all cases are epidemiologically linked to the initial imported cases.

The Tongan Ministry of Health has convened an Epidemic Task Force comprised of public health, clinical and laboratory representatives to advise on the management of the outbreak.

Other Outbreaks

There are a number of measles outbreaks currently occurring globally. Further information is available on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Measles

Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, with outbreaks often occurring.

However, the number of measles cases worldwide has increased substantially in recent years, with a number of countries currently experiencing severe and prolonged measles outbreaks.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated against measles is at risk of becoming infected when traveling overseas. You may also risk exposing others to this highly infectious, serious illness either while travelling, or when you return to Australia.

In Australia, the majority of measles cases are due to unvaccinated individuals becoming infected while travelling to countries in which measles is either common or there are outbreaks occurring. As measles is highly contagious, these people can then spread the disease to others, causing outbreaks, often before they are aware that they have the virus.

People who are experiencing signs and symptoms of measles should seek medical attention. It is recommended that you call ahead to the medical practice or hospital emergency department to alert of them of your symptoms so that measures can be taken to limit your exposure to others upon your arrival.

The Australian Government continues to closely monitor measles outbreaks overseas and in Australia.

Risk of Measles spreading in Australia

If a person develops measles, there is a very high chance that anyone around them who is not immune will also develop the disease.

In Australia, many people have had two doses of measles vaccine, and most people born in 1965 or earlier have immunity from having had the disease. However, measles is easily spread and at least 95 per cent of people need to be vaccinated for there to be enough immunity across the population to stop spread and help protect those who cannot be vaccinated.

Recommendations for Australian Travellers

Travel advice for Australians is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website.

Australians travelling overseas should be up to date with routinely recommended vaccination against measles prior to departure. The Australian Immunisation Handbook has further details of these recommendations.

Australian travellers should check their vaccination records and consult their general practitioner or travel doctor regarding their vaccination requirements for measles and other diseases. You are able to get your vaccine from a range of vaccination providers in Australia. It is safe to have additional doses of measles vaccine if your vaccine status is uncertain.

Children aged 12 months and 18 months can get measles vaccines for free through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

People under 20 years of age, refugees and other humanitarian entrants of any age, can get measles vaccines for free through the NIP if they did not receive the vaccines in childhood.

Some states and territories provide free measles vaccination for additional people.

Information for Health Professionals

The Australian Immunisation Handbook provides clinically relevant information about measles vaccination.

Further Information