Warning as anti-vax mum brings measles from NZ
Health authorities are bracing for a measles outbreak in the anti-vax heartland of Byron Bay after a local unvaccinated child caught measles in New Zealand and returned to the town.
Doctors are now pleading with those parents who refuse to vaccinate their children to be more responsible when they travel to countries with measles outbreaks.
New Zealand has a serious outbreak of measles that has affected more than 1000 children.
The infectious child travelled to several shops and cafes around Byron Bay - a town where a third of all children are not vaccinated.
Chair of the Northern NSW Local Health District Dr Brian Pezzutti said the parents were "simply irresponsible" if they exposed their child to measles overseas.
"If the children are not going to be vaccinated they should stay where they are safe," Dr Pezzutti said.
"It's irresponsible for the child to be exposed first place and then irresponsible to bring the child back into their own community.
"The community itself now has to take some responsibility for making sure this doesn't happen.
"It's all very well for mothers' groups to tut-tut, but there needs to be more pressure from the community to make sure these children are immunised."
Parents at the Byron Bay Preschool Cavanbah Centre were informed of a suspected measles case on Thursday. NSW Health has not confirmed the case.
The local health district has also sent exposed children to the Byron Bay Hospital emergency department to be vaccinated.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, as many as 90 per cent of the people exposed who are not immune will also become infected.
Measles can cause fits or convulsions, croup and inflammation of the brain, which could result in hospitalisation.
Two children in 1000 with measles will have inflammation of the brain, which can result in permanent brain damage or death.
A late complication of measles is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), which causes progressive brain damage and nearly always results in death.
The Byron shire has the lowest immunisation rate in the country, with enormous peer pressure placed on new mothers by the multitude of vocal anti-vaxxers.
"The government has done what it can within reason, it is now up to the Byron community to do what it can to encourage more responsibility among the parents of these children," Dr Pezzutti said.
"To see a perfectly healthy child go through encephalitis and end up with a non-functioning brain is a dreadful prospect."