17 Dec 2009

Measles alert for airline passengers

5:28 pm on 17 December 2009

Auckland and Canterbury health authorities are trying to contact passengers on flights from London to Auckland and from Auckland to Christchurch on 7 December. They may have been exposed to measles.

Auckland and Canterbury health authorities are trying to contact more than 90 passengers who may have been exposed to measles on flights between London and Auckland, and from Auckland to Christchurch last week.

Auckland health authorities want to identify 56 passengers seated in rows 56 to 60 inclusive on Flight NZ1 from London. The flight arrived in New Zealand on Monday, 7 December.

Meanwhile, the Christchurch health authorities are trying to track down 35 passengers seated in rows 13-17 on Air New Zealand flight 509, which arrived in Christchurch from Auckland at 3.45pm on 7 December.

A 11-month-old baby who was aboard both flights is now confirmed as having had measles.

Health authorities say passengers should also call their doctor if they develop measles symptoms, which include a rash, high fever, runny nose and watery eyes.

Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says measles is a serious and highly infectious disease.

The time delay from exposure is usually 8-14 days, but can be up to 21 days. Almost all those infected make a complete recovery, but up to a third of children may develop complications.

Canterbury had a major measles outbreak from June to September and the authorities are anxious to avoid a repeat.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says the passengers could be infectious for up to three weeks.

For the next 12 days, they should avoid pregnant women and preschools in particular.

Most at risk are people who have not had the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, those born before 1969 are likely to be immune.