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Measles alert for travellers from Philippines

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has been notified of a new case of measles and is asking people who may have come in contact with that person to watch out for symptoms.

The infected person flew in from Manila on Philippine Airlines flight PR218 on Friday 30 November at 2.05 pm.

Medical Officer of Health Dr David Sinclair says the service is contacting other passengers on the plane who were sitting between rows 44 and 66, closest to the affected person.

"Symptoms may begin to appear in other passengers in the next few days but if anyone seated in those rows knows they don’t have immunity to measles, they could be vaccinated and that could prevent the symptoms developing," he says.

He says any passengers on that flight who start to feel unwell should phone their doctor or call Healthline on 0800 611-116 for advice.

"If you feel unwell, please don’t just turn up. It is important to call first, because measles is highly infectious and you could infect others in the waiting room," Dr Sinclair says.

ARPHS is currently working on identifying people who have been in contact with the infected person and placing those at risk of developing the disease - those who are not immune - in quarantine.

He is asking members of the public who may have been exposed and who are unsure of their immune status to call their doctors’ practice to check.

"Measles is infectious before the rash appears and is one of the most contagious airborne diseases. It is very easily transmitted from one person to another, possibly just from walking past the passenger with measles, or while sitting near them in the airport gate," he says.

Measles usually begins with a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes, followed by a rash starting behind the ears and spreading to the body a few days later. One in three people with measles will develop complications, such as ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhoea or rarely inflammation of the brain.

Dr Sinclair says if someone suspects they have measles, they should call their general practice first. This will allow the practice to make arrangements to assess them safely.

"Please don’t just turn up at the doctor’s as you could infect people in the waiting room."

Anyone who develops symptoms should also stay away from their workplace and public places such as schools, child care, shopping centres or public transport.

Measles is a serious illness. One in 10 people with measles need hospital treatment and the most serious cases can result in deafness or swelling of the brain.

The best way to prevent measles is through immunisation. New Zealand’s national immunisation schedule provides free measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations for all children at 15 months and four years. Two doses of MMR vaccine is at least 97 percent effective in preventing measles.

People born after 1969 who have had only one MMR dose are entitled to the second MMR dose free of charge. Practice nurse fees may apply.

For more information or advice on measles, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Auckland Regional Public Health website.


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