The war against preventable diseases in Brisbane is heating up with the number of confirmed measles cases set to increase and a new move from the Queensland Government to boost vaccination rates.

Brisbane residents, in particular University of Queensland students, are being urged to check their vaccination status after a seventh case of measles was confirmed in Brisbane, with Queensland Health stating that additional cases would soon follow.

According to Queensland Health, vaccination with the MMR vaccine is the most effective way to prevent measles and two doses are necessary to provide high levels of protection. The MMR vaccine is recommended for all children at 12 months of age and at four years of age.

Vaccination is also recommended for all children who have not previously received MMR vaccine, children over four years of age who have only received one dose of MMR vaccine and adults born during or since 1966 who have not received two doses of MMR vaccine. And susceptible women should be identified during antenatal counselling and vaccinated with MMR vaccine at least 28 days before pregnancy or immediately after delivery.

Metro North Public Health Unit (PHU) Physician Dr James Smith said measles symptoms usually start around 10 days after contact, but can occur between seven and 18 days after contact with an infectious person.

“This means we expect to see further measles cases from contact with these individuals,” he said.

“The PHU is advising (UQ) students who are unwell to avoid the university campus, part-time work and social events, including shopping centres, bars and parties.

“Measles is infectious for about four days before the rash develops. None of the seven cases realised they were highly infectious when on campus and in the community.”

Queensland Health has warned that measles virus is very contagious. The virus is spread from an infectious person during coughing and sneezing or through direct contact with secretions from the nose or mouth. A person may be infectious from about five days before the onset of the rash until about four days after the rash appears.

Measles can cause serious complications such as pneumonia (lung infection), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or otitis media (middle ear infection).

Complications are more common and more severe in people with a chronic illness and very young children. Deaths occur mainly in children under five years of age, primarily from pneumonia, and occasionally from encephalitis.

Measles should not be regarded as a simple childhood disease and in order to combat the growing number of non-immunised children in Brisbane, Queensland and across Australia parents will soon be receiving a reminder phone call from the Queensland Government in order to lift vaccination rates.

Health Minister Cameron Dick says the parents of 35,000 children under the age of five, whose vaccinations aren’t up to date, will be called from October 1.

“This is opening up another front in our war against preventable diseases in Queensland,” he told Australian Associated Press.

“The more people who are vaccinated, the more children who are vaccinated, the better the health of our community.”

The State’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeanette Young said if a level of 95 per cent of vaccination in the community was not reached, diseases previously eradicated could reappear in the state.

“A lot of those diseases are still very significant diseases elsewhere in the world and when (unvaccinated) people go overseas they can bring them back and we see them emerge again,” she warned.

Further advice regarding vaccination and Measles is available by calling 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).