Plane passenger sparks new measles alert

Press Release – Auckland Regional Public Health Service

28 February 2013

Plane passenger sparks new measles alert

Passengers flying Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland on 20 February may have been exposed to measles, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has today advised.

“We can confirm one measles case who was a passenger on Flight MH0705 from Manila to Kuala Lumpur on 19 February, and Flight MH0131 from Kuala Lumpur to New Zealand arriving in Auckland at 1:00 pm on Thursday 20 Feb,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr Catherine Jackson. “The passenger with measles would have been infectious at the time of their travel on this flight.”

Those most at risk of catching measles are passengers on the flight who sat closest to the case. These people are all being contacted by ARPHS to establish their immunity status and receive further information. Dr Jackson says,” People who sat closest to the case have the highest risk and are our first priority, however measles is very infectious and so we want all passengers to be aware of this exposure.”

Measles is infectious before the rash appears and is very easily transmitted through the air. It is four times more infectious than influenza. Passengers who have caught measles from this flight may already be unwell and could experience symptoms anytime until Thursday 6 March. Dr Jackson says any passengers on that flight who feel unwell should phone their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice. It is vitally important to call first before seeing a doctor because measles is highly infectious, and people with measles can infect others in the waiting room. Please see our website link below for details on measles symptoms.

ARPHS continues to try and contain the measles situation in Auckland, with now over 40 confirmed cases and over 1500 contacts traced. “Measles is a serious illness”, says Dr Jackson, “with an average of one in 10 cases needing hospital treatment.”

ARPHS continues to urge people in the Auckland region to check their immunisation records to see if are fully immunised with 2 measles or MMR immunisations. “There is no treatment for measles: the only protection, and the best way to avoid its complications, is to be fully immunised,” says Dr Jackson.

For more information: See the ARPHS health information on measles, including factsheets, at http://www.arphs.govt.nz/health-information/communicable-disease/measles.

ENDS

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