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New measles alert over infected plane passenger

MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday 15 January 2014

New measles alert over infected plane passenger

Travellers who arrived at Auckland International Airport on 12 January on Singapore Airlines Flight SQ281 from Singapore may have been exposed to measles, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has today advised.

“We have been notified of one measles case who was a passenger on Flight SQ281 from Singapore, which arrived in Auckland at 11.45pm on Sunday 12 January,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr Richard Hoskins. “The passenger with measles would have been infectious at the time of their travel on this flight.”

Passengers who were on the flight may soon be experiencing symptoms, if they have been infected.

Dr Hoskins says any passengers on that flight who feel they may be unwell should phone their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice. It is important to call first because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others in the waiting room.

ARPHS’ role is trying to contact all the exposed people, assessing whether they are susceptible to measles infection, and providing public health advice including the need for isolation and further immunisation.

Measles is a serious illness, with one in 10 cases needing hospital treatment. Measles is infectious before the rash appears and is very easily transmitted through the air, for example, while walking past infected passengers, or while waiting in the airport gate lounge.

People most at risk of contracting the disease are those who have not had the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine, or who have just had one dose of the vaccine.  Anyone born before 1969 is likely to be immune to the disease without having had the vaccine.

“There is no treatment for measles: the only protection, and the best way to avoid its complications, is to be fully vaccinated. My plea would be for parents and families to check that their children’s immunisations are up-to-date,” says Dr Hoskins.

The time delay from being exposed to measles to developing symptoms is usually 8 -14 days, but can be up to 21 days. The first symptoms are a fever, and one or more of a runny nose, cough and sore red eyes. After a few days a red blotchy rash comes on and lasts up to one week. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

“Measles is now rare in New Zealand, thanks to immunisation,” says Dr Hoskins. “We had two big outbreaks in 2011, each of which was started by people who were infected overseas. People tend to underestimate measles - the reality is it can be a nasty disease.”

ENDS

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