11 January 2018

Measles alert for Thai Airways passengers

Western Australians are being asked to be alert to an increased risk of measles, following a confirmed diagnosis in a passenger who was infected in Thailand. The infected person may have been infectious to others on a flight to Perth, and then in several locations in the northern suburbs during the past week.

The passenger departed Bangkok just after midnight on Thai Airways flight TG483, arriving in Perth around 7.50am on Tuesday 2 January.

People who were on this flight, especially those seated around the ill passenger, were potentially exposed and may be at risk of measles.

In addition, people could have been exposed to measles at the following more specific locations in Perth, with dates/times indicated below: 

  • Perth Airport international terminal arrival area, from around 8am to 9am on Tuesday 2 January
  • Coles at Northlands Plaza Shopping Centre in Balcatta, from around 10am to noon on Tuesday 2 January, and during the morning of Saturday 6 January
  • KFC at 232 Walter Rd W in Morley around midday on Friday 5 January
  • Woolworths at Stirling Central Shopping Centre on Wanneroo Rd, Westminster on the morning of Saturday 6 January
  • Pharmacy777 on Arnisdale Rd in Duncraig around 7.30pm to 8.30pm on Saturday 6 January
  • Joondalup Health Campus in and near the Emergency Department at around 2.45pm on Sunday 7 January; and in the Medical Assessment Unit from late that day until around midday on Monday 8 January.

WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse said public health staff had been contacting potentially exposed individuals directly where they were known, but it was not possible to identify and specifically warn people who were in public places.

“Measles is contagious for about four days before and after the development of the rash. Children and adults who have been unwittingly exposed are at risk of developing measles if they are not immune,” Dr Dowse said.

“A person is considered immune to measles if they have previously received two doses of a measles vaccine or were born before 1966.”

Dr Dowse said individuals who developed a fever with other symptoms – including cough, runny nose, sore red eyes and a rash – within one to three weeks of potential exposure to someone with measles, should stay at home and consult their doctor.

“Anyone who thinks they are infected should call ahead and mention their possible contact with measles so they can be isolated when they arrive at the GP surgery or Emergency Department, to prevent infecting other patients and staff,” Dr Dowse said.

Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze.

Early symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore eyes, followed by a red blotchy rash about three days later. The rash usually starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. Measles infections can be especially severe in infants and people with poor immune systems.

Complications following measles can be serious and include ear infections and pneumonia in about 10 per cent of cases. Around 40 per cent of cases require hospitalisation and about one person in every 1,000 will develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.

There have been over 40 deaths from measles in the past two years in Europe associated with outbreaks occurring there, serving as a reminder of the seriousness of the disease, even in developed countries.

Naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for about 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks occur associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas.

Every imported measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread – including to those most vulnerable to infection such as infants too young to be vaccinated, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems.

Measles vaccine is currently given to children at 12 and 18 months of age. People born during or after 1966 should make sure they have had two documented doses of a measles vaccine at some stage in their life, especially before travelling overseas. If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, they should see their doctor for a dose before they leave.

ENDS

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