Health authorities in Australia are bracing themselves for a major measles outbreak in Byron Bay after a child returned from a trip to New Zealand carrying the highly contagious disease.

Reports of the child's return have sparked fears of an epidemic in Byron Bay, a surfing town in northern, NSW, one in three children are not vaccinated, the Daily Mail reported.

New Zealand is in the midst of a huge surge in measles cases, with almost 900 in Auckland, and more than 1100 confirmed cases notified across the country.

Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, is a popular destination. Photo / 123RF
Byron Bay, NSW, Australia, is a popular destination. Photo / 123RF

The outbreak in New Zealand is being closely monitored in Australia, with doctors pleading with parents not to travel to countries dealing with outbreaks if anyone in their family is not immunised, the Daily Telegraph reported.


Chair of the Northern NSW Local Health District, Dr Brian Pezzutti, said parents who take their unvaccinated children to disease-riddles nations are "simply irresponsible".

"It's irresponsible for the child to be exposed first place and then irresponsible to bring the child back into their own community," Dr Pezzutti said.

"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."

Local health authorities also sent kids who had been exposed to the potentially fatal disease to Byron Bay Hospital to be vaccinated.

Measles is spread through the air by droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes red blotchy rash, and a fever, though some don't appear until 10 to 14 days after exposure.

The disease is so contagious that 90 per cent of people exposed will become infected if they are not immunised.

Dr Pezzutti said the Byron Bay community needed to encourage parents to vaccinate their kids.


"To see a perfectly healthy child go through encephalitis and end up with a non-functioning brain is a dreadful prospect."