Agency confirms no measles outbreak in three years

by Luh De Suriyani on 2013-12-14

The Bali Health Agency has confirmed that there has been no measles outbreak on the island in the last three years, saying Australian tourists could have got the virus from anywhere, including their home country.

The Head of the Health Agency, Dr. Ketut Suarjaya, was responding to recent news of a travel advisory issued by the Australian and American governments advising their citizens about holidaying on the island.

The Australian government has warned Australians to check their measles vaccinations.

The country’s health authority reportedly became concerned after five Australians who had holidayed in Bali were diagnosed with measles over the past five weeks.

ABC news previously reported that the acting chief health officer, Dr. Michael Ackland, said measles had been common in Bali and posed a significant risk to anyone who had not been vaccinated.

“I’m particularly concerned about people in the schoolies group, who are traveling shortly, to make sure that they are vaccinated before they travel,” he said.

“While most people brush measles aside, it can become quite a serious illness resulting in pneumonia, and indeed, encephalitis, which is an infection of the brain.”

Adults aged between 33 and 47 are at high risk of contracting measles because many in that age group did not receive the vaccine when they were young.

Meanwhile, Ketut explained that there was no record of a measles outbreak on the island.

“An outbreak of a communicable disease occurs when it strikes at least 10 people in one location, such as the cases of avian flu and rabies,” the doctor said.

In the case of measles, he said, there might be one or two cases, affecting mostly young children. “But it does not mean there is an outbreak of measles in Bali,” he said, strongly responding to the news in the Australian and American media.

The Jakarta Post previously reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued a travel notice Tuesday for Americans traveling to Indonesia, warning them to take measures that would prevent them from contracting measles.

The federal health agency urged travelers to “practice usual precautions”, as a US traveler in August had returned from Indonesia with measles and spread the disease in a Texas community.

The warning came after Australian health officials in mid-November also advised those traveling to Indonesia to be fully vaccinated against measles.

Since October, there have been 27 reported cases of measles in Australians, including 11 secondary cases associated with travel to Indonesia, more specifically to Bali.

“In October, five Australians were diagnosed with measles after returning from Bali,” the CDC said on its website on Tuesday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 6,300 confirmed cases of measles in Indonesia from Jan. 1 until Nov. 11 this year. The WHO report was used by the CDC to issue the notice.

Suarjaya said that Bali had an early warning and surveillance system for the prevention of communicable diseases.

“We have installed systems at Ngurah Rai International Airport for early prevention and detection,” he said.

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