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.
Measles is a very contagious viral illness that causes a skin rash and fever in some cases. Measles can cause serious, sometimes fatal, complications including pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). Measles spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and another person breathes in the droplets from the air, or touches the droplets and then touches their nose or mouth.
Measles remains a common disease in many parts of the world, including areas of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Africa, with outbreaks often occurring.
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 practice or 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.
People are not required to carry proof of vaccination against measles when they travel.
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.
Measles immunisation is recommended for:
- children aged 12 months and 18 months
- children aged 6 months to 12 months who are travelling to an area where measles is common or an outbreak is occurring. Children vaccinated prior to 12 months of age will still require 2 further doses
- anyone born during or since 1966 who has not had 2 doses of the measles vaccine. People born between 1966 and 1994 may have only received one dose of measles vaccine in childhood
- healthcare workers, if they have not had 2 doses of the measles vaccine
- people working in early childhood education and care, if they have not had 2 doses of the vaccine
- people working in long-term care or other residential facilities, if they have not had 2 doses of the vaccine
- people who are travelling overseas, if they have not had 2 doses of the vaccine.
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.
- For more information about measles, please go to our measles webpage
- For information about measles vaccination, please go to our measles vaccination webpage
- For information about the number of measles cases in Australia, please go to our national notifiable diseases data website, or see information on measles elimination in Australia
- For information on current outbreaks, refer to the relevant country page on Smartraveller
- For technical information about the measles immunisation schedule in Australia, refer to the Australian Immunisation Handbook