Measles risk on trans-Tasman flight

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 12:16 11/01/2011

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Passengers arriving in New Zealand last week on an Emirates flight from Dubai may have been exposed to measles, the Ministry of Health (MOH) advised today.

Australian health authorities revealed a passenger on flight Emirates EK406 has been confirmed as having measles.

The flight departed Dubai on January 3, flying via Melbourne and arrived in Auckland on January 4.

The infected passenger disembarked after 13 hours at Melbourne, but many other passengers continued on to Auckland. 

Measles is easily spread through the air and people sitting in a row close to the affected passenger are potentially at risk.  

The whereabouts of about 20 people who sat nearest to the infected passenger and landed in New Zealand are unknown.

Dr John Holmes, the ministry's chief advisor on population health, said people who are feeling unwell should not go directly to a doctor's office or emergency department as they could infect other people.

Holmes said although measles is now rare in New Zealand, people tend to underestimate the disease.

"The reality is it can be a nasty disease.  One in ten people who catch measles will need to be hospitalised, which tells you this isn't by any means a mild illness.

"Measles can't be easily treated once you get it, so the best way to prevent the disease is through immunisation."

New Zealand had three outbreaks of measles during 2009 and 2010 - each started by people who were infected overseas. 

Symptoms begin with fever, runny nose and sore eyes, followed about two days later by a red blotchy rash. Some people can also develop middle ear infection or diarrhoea.
Holmes said any passengers who may be feeling unwell should call Healthline on 0800 611 116. 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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