Holiday health reminder - measles and mosquitoes

Territorians are being reminded to take extra precautions over the school holiday period, with measles still circulating and the mosquito-borne Kunjin virus being detected in the Top End.

“Everyone should be immune to measles, but it is absolutely essential to be certain of your immunity if you are travelling overseas where measles is currently at high levels,” said Acting Director at the Centre for Disease Control Dr Ros Webby. “There have been recent outbreaks in South-East Asia but high rates have also been reported in Europe. People aged from their 20s to early 50s need to make sure they have had a second MMR vaccine before they travel.

“Measles is still circulating in Darwin and Palmerston so everyone needs to make doubly sure they are immune.”

There have been 30 confirmed cases of measles in the current outbreak. Those born before 1966 are assumed to have had measles, while those born after 1996 are likely to have had two measles vaccinations as part of the routine childhood schedule. Everyone who has not had the measles needs two vaccinations to be considered immune.

“For those travelling closer to home it is also important to protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. Kunjin virus activity has been detected in Top End. Territorians should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes during outdoor activities, especially between sundown and sunrise.”

The high risk period for Kunjin virus is from February to the end of July, and the mosquitoes that transmit the disease can occur in pest numbers within a few kilometres of their breeding sites, such as seasonal lagoons and wetlands. Following recent monsoonal activity, mosquitoes are expected to increase in rural areas, and remain relatively high until breeding sites dry up. Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus is also transmitted by mosquitoes and is known historically to be in the Top End at this time of year. The MVE virus causes a disease very similar to and even more serious than Kunjin disease and is one to be avoided.

Symptoms of Kunjin virus and also MVE virus disease can include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures (especially in young children), with MVE being potentially fatal. To minimise the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes, people should:

  • use a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin as a supplement to protective clothing when outdoors in mosquito prone areas
  • wear light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers and socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely
  • avoid outdoor exposure around dusk and at night near areas of dense vegetation and other areas of high mosquito activity
  • use mosquito-proof accommodation and camping facilities at night
  • use mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns and barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas near houses
  • ensure children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

Source: NT Government