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Measles on SIA flight and Pacific dengue epidemic

March 2, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A warning has gone out concerning measles on a Singapore Airlines flight, while a separate alert warns of a dengue fever epidemic raging throughout the whole of New Caledonia and much of the Pacific.

Travellers who arrived at Auckland International Airport on Singapore Airlines flight SQ285 from Singapore at 11.45am on February 22 may have been exposed to measles, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) advises.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Michael Hale says passengers in rows 31 to 49 were closest to the measles case and are at highest risk, but anyone on the flight should watch out for symptoms.

Dr Hale says symptoms may appear over the next seven days.

“If anyone who may have been exposed knows they don’t have immunity to measles they can be vaccinated, and that could prevent the symptoms developing,” he says.

The first symptoms are a fever, and one or more of: a runny nose, cough and sore red eyes. After a few days a red blotchy rash develops.

The mosquito Aedes aegypti, spreader of dengue fever, feeding on a human host

 “Although passengers in rows 31 to 49 are most exposed, there’s a possibility that anyone on the flight, around the flight gate or baggage claim at this time, could have been infected,” Dr Hale warns.

“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 lounge.”

Measles is a serious illness. One in 10 people catching it needs hospital treatment and the most serious cases can result in deafness or swelling of the brain. Dr Hale says measles is infectious before the rash appears and is one of the most infectious airborne diseases.

“The only way to protect from measles and the best way to avoid its complications is to be fully vaccinated. Anyone born before 1969 is likely to be immune to the disease without having had the vaccine.”

MEANWHILE dengue fever outbreaks have been reported across the Pacific and anyone travelling to Pacific countries should take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Measles

On 22 February 2018, the New Caledonian Government declared a dengue epidemic for the whole of New Caledonia, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service Medical Officer of Health, Dr Denise Barnfather, urges anyone travelling to Pacific countries where dengue fever occurs, particularly Samoa, to exercise caution.

“Dengue fever can be a severe illness. Those who travel to Pacific countries frequently are at risk of repeat infections with different strains of the dengue virus. This can lead to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.”

DFAT warns travellers to protect themselves against mosquito-borne illnesses in New Caledonia, as outbreaks of dengue fever, Zika virus and chikungunya occur from time to time.

DFAT’s advice:

  • Ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof.
  • Take measures to avoid insect bites, including always using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing.
  • If you’re pregnant, discuss your travel plans and possible health risks with your doctor before you travel.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

Written by Peter Needham

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