Socceroos fans warned of measles risk
From: AAP, By Belinda Tasker, May 19, 2006
DOCTORS are warning Socceroos fans heading for the World Cup to make sure they are vaccinated against measles amid an epidemic in the host country Germany.
With just three weeks until the June 9 kickoff, concerns are growing about Germany's measles epidemic.
More than 1100 people living in the heavily industrialised North Rhine-Westphalia region, which includes the cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf, have been struck down by the highly infectious disease in recent months.
Health authorities fear that because measles is an airborne disease, it could easily spread among soccer fans at World Cup matches and post-match celebrations.
NSW Health epidemiologist Dr Vicky Sheppeard said soccer fans should make sure they had been vaccinated against measles before heading to Germany.
"Measles is not only highly contagious but it can cause severe complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis," she said.
"Anyone younger than 40 years of age who has not had two shots of measles vaccine should visit their GP to get vaccinated as soon as possible."
More than 15 per cent of people diagnosed with measles in Germany recently had to be admitted to hospital because of complications including severe pneumonia and encephalitis.
Australia's opening World Cup match against Japan on June 12 will be played in Kaiserslautern, which is in the Rheinland-Pfalz region adjoining North Rhine-Westphalia.
The vaccination alert comes as Australia faces its own measles epidemic.
While not on the same scale as Germany, the number of measles cases in Australia has soared to more than 50 since March.
Health authorities believe the outbreak was sparked by followers of the world-renowned Hindu spiritual leader Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, also known as Amma, who attracted huge crowds on her Australian tour last month.
Initial symptoms of measles – fever, tiredness, runny nose, a cough and red, sore eyes – usually begin to show about 10 days after a person is exposed to the disease.
A red, blotchy rash develops on a sufferer's face about three to four days later before spreading to the rest of their body.
NSW Health has begun supplying GPs across the state with free measles vaccines to help contain the spread of the disease.