09 May 2018

Measles alert for Qantas domestic flight Adelaide to Perth

People who travelled on Qantas flight QF 585 from Adelaide to Perth on Saturday 5 May are asked to be alert to an increased risk of measles. The flight departed Adelaide around 2 pm and arrived in Perth at around 3:55 pm.

A young child who was on the flight has subsequently been confirmed to have measles, and would have been infectious to others on the plane. 

People who were on this flight, especially those seated in the vicinity of row 12, were potentially exposed and may be at risk if they are not immune. Measles is a serious and highly contagious viral illness spread by tiny droplets released when infected people cough and sneeze.

People could also have been exposed to the infectious child in the arrivals and baggage collection areas of the Qantas domestic terminal on Saturday 5 May, during the period from around 4 pm to 5 pm that afternoon.

Susceptible people who were exposed to the infectious case could potentially develop measles symptoms in the period between 12 and 23 May.

People on the flight who are most vulnerable to measles infection - such as infants too young to be vaccinated, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems - may benefit from an injection of natural antibodies, if given before 12 May. People who think they may fit this category should urgently telephone Metropolitan CDC on 9222 8588 for advice.

Early symptoms of measles 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.

Anyone who thinks they might have measles and needs medical attention should telephone ahead to a GP surgery or Emergency Department before attending, so that they can be isolated immediately on arrival in order to avoid infecting other patients and staff.

There have now been ten measles cases confirmed in Perth residents since mid-March, including four adults, five infants too young for vaccination, and one teenager.

WA Health Medical Epidemiologist Dr Gary Dowse said that eight of the ten cases were infected while travelling overseas. The imported cases have been infected in Bali, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Afghanistan.

“With high vaccination coverage, naturally occurring measles has been eliminated from WA for around 20 years but occasional cases and small outbreaks still occur – associated with tourists or WA residents who are infected overseas,” Dr Dowse said. 

“Every imported measles case is treated as a public health emergency because of the risk of local spread.”

Dr Dowse said public health staff had been providing information to people who were potentially exposed to the recent case 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.

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, inflammation of the brain.

There have been around 50 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.

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, including to Bali and other popular tourist destinations in Asia and Southeast Asia. If they are not sure if they have been vaccinated in the past, they should see their doctor for a dose before they leave.

People who are concerned they may have measles, and require medical advice after hours, can contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.


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