Travellers who arrived at Auckland International Airport on Malaysia Airlines MH133 from Kuala Lumpur at 11pm on 15th April 2018 may have been exposed to measles.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has been contacting the passengers seated in rows 28 to 44, closest to the infectious person, to check their immunity and advise on action such as vaccination or in some cases, quarantine.

ARPHS Medical Officer of Health, Dr Josephine Herman, says although anyone in rows 28 to 44 is most exposed, there’s a possibility that other passengers on the flight may have been infected on the plane, at the gate or at the baggage claim.

“The airborne measles virus is very easily transmitted from one person to another, so those on the flight should watch for symptoms from now until 29 April,” Dr Herman says. These include a fever, and one or more of a runny nose, cough or sore red eyes. A raised red rash follows.

Passengers feeling unwell should telephone their doctor before visiting the practice, or call Healthline on 0800 611-116 for advice.

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.

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 MMR vaccine. Anyone born before 1969 is likely to be immune to the disease.

Dr Herman suggests New Zealanders catch up on their MMR vaccinations before they travel overseas.

The New Zealand government’s SafeTravel website advises “a number of countries overseas continue to have measles outbreaks, including parts of Europe, Asia (particularly the Philippines, Vietnam, India and China), Africa and Chile. Closer to home, there have been outbreaks in the Pacific in parts of Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as in New Zealand.”

Dr Herman says ARPHS had a confirmed cases of measles on a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore in Februrary, with a second case as a result of contact with this person.

“The only way to protect from measles and the best way to avoid its complications is to be fully vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine,” Dr Herman says.

Measles symptoms

The time delay from being exposed to measles to developing symptoms is usually 8 -14 days but can be up to 21 days. The typical symptoms are:

  • Fever, and one or more of a runny nose, cough or sore red eyes 
  • Then after a few days, a red raised rash comes on and lasts up to one week. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body

More information on measles can be found on the ARPHS website here or by calling a nurse at Healthline’s 24-hour service on 0800 611-116 (interpreters available).

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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