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Advice for kidney transplant patients during current measles outbreak

The facts

  1. Measles is a highly contagious virus that can be life threatening
  2. Kidney transplant patients are at increased risk of serious complications such as severe life-threatening pneumonia or encephalitis (brain infection) because they are immunosuppressed (on medications such as prednisone, cyclosporine, tacrolimus, azathioprine and mycophenolate). The typical signs of measles (rash, fever) may not be present
  3. Measles is infective from 5 days before the onset of rash (1 day before the onset of early symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, conjunctivitis) and until 5 days after the rash.
  4. Measles contacts’ are people who shared the same air with someone while they were infectious with measles. The infection can also be left behind on surfaces or in the air for a number of hours after an infected person has left.  It takes 7-14 days for a contact who has become infected with the measles virus to start to have symptoms.
  5. Make sure that people whom you live with are protected against measles, either from previous exposure or vaccination. If neither, encourage them to visit their family doctor and get vaccinated.
  6. Avoid being with people whom you know have an infectious illness, particularly measles, other viral illnesses or when the cause is unknown.

What you should do?

  1. Consult your transplant specialist or unit coordinator to help you establish whether you are protected against measles (by previous vaccination or exposure), Your specialist may arrange a blood test to check your antibody status
  2. If you have no measles antibodies in the test you are at risk of catching measles if you are exposed to it
  3. You cannot have the vaccine because you are immunosuppressed 
  4. If you are exposed to measles and have not been vaccinated or previously exposed, you can receive antibody treatment (e.g. IVIG or immune globulin). This will prevent or diminish the severity of measles. Make contact with your renal transplant specialist or unit co-ordinator as soon as possible to notify them of this urgent requirement

Dr. John Collins FRACP

Medical Advisor