HEALTH WARNING: MEASLES ON RISE
By GRAEME SINGLETON
DOCTOR Anand Naidoo isn't surprised that NSW Health has issued a measles warning to the Bellingen and Coffs Harbour communities.
The warning was prompted by the confirmation of a new case in Bellingen, the 49th in NSW during the past three months.
Dr Naidoo, a Coffs Harbour paediatrician, said he hadn't seen any cases yet but acknowledged there were children and adults in the area at risk because they had not been vaccinated against measles.
"There are strong anti-immunisation groups locally ? people with alternative viewpoints ? but these latest cases confirm the need for vaccination," Dr Naidoo said.
The Communicable Diseases Officer with North Coast Area Health, Sean Gibney, said yesterday a teenager had been diagnosed with measles after presenting to hospital with a fever and rash.
"The teenager wasn't hospitalised but has been confined to the family home until there is a full recovery," Mr Gibney said.
"Measles is a highly infectious and serious viral disease, and that is why we have issued the alert."
The Bellingen case comes after a fifth case of measles was diagnosed in the Byron Bay/Tweed area and which authorites believe isn't related to an earlier outbreak connected to a visit to the Gold Coast in March by an Indian spiritual figure.
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The North Coast Director of Public Health, Paul Corben, said the 49 confirmed cases diagnosed since early March compared with only five cases in the whole of 2005.
He said the outbreak focused on the need for people to check their vaccination status.
Dr Naidoo said children who hadn't been vaccinated ran the risk of being very sick for about two weeks.
"In rare cases measles can result in brain damage and lead to the development of pnuemonia, viral menningitis and encephalitis ? measles can be a very unpleasant illness," he said.
Dr Naidoo said he had every confidence in the MMR vaccination program which protected children against measles, mumps and ruebella.
"The problems associated with MMR vaccination have been grossly over-stated. Everyday life is a risk but the risk of contracting measles and suffering other health problems as a result of infection outweigh any risk from vaccination," Dr Naidoo said.
"The MMR vaccine is fully tested and recommended by the Government, and is used very effectively all around the world.
"I believe every child should be routinely vaccinated."
Dr Naidoo urged the parents of any child who developed a fever and rash to seek medical attention immediately.