Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Measles In-Flight Exposure--New Zealand

According to ProMed mail, a passenger on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Auckland has been found to have measles, causing the Ministry of Health to issue a warning to passengers on board the flight of possible measles exposure. Emirates flight EK406 seats between 350 and 420 passengers. Because measles is spread through the air, these passengers are at risk to contract the disease, especially because of shared air flow within the aircraft. The locations of about 20 individuals who sat near the infected individual on the flight are unknown. Measles is rare in New Zealand due to vaccination efforts; only 3 cases occurred during the '09/'10 year. Dr. John Holmes cautions infected individuals to stay away from hospitals for risk of infected large portions of the populations but does recommend that New Zealand adults receive MMR vaccinations if they have not done so.

The In-flight exposure to measles raises several public health concerns. First, no matter how carefully a country approaches the vaccination or disease prevention efforts of its own citizens, the country will always be at risk for disease exposure due to immigration/travel. However, thorough vaccination programs must be implemented in order to protect the "indigenous" population from infection via herd immunity. Second, air travel poses a serious threat to epidemic control globally. Increasingly, individuals can travel around the world within days. Infections can be carried with them and infected individuals can introduce pathogens to new populations rapidly. Third, surveillance is key to disease prevention and control, but once individuals leave the airport they often disappear within the population. At-risk individuals on-board flight EK406 may not realize their risks for contracting and spreading measles.

Owen Marecic

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