Urgent health alert as 'very infectious' passenger arrives at Aussie airport

Aussies are being urged to check their MMR vaccine is up to date.

NSW Health issued an alert on Wednesday advising people to look out for signs and symptoms of measles after a confirmed case was found to be infectious while travelling through Sydney International Airport, landing in the ACT.

The adult infected with the "very contagious" airborne virus was returning from Asia which, like Europe, has been experiencing ongoing outbreaks.

Director of Communicable Diseases Branch for NSW Health, Dr Christine Selvey, has said it is important to look out for symptoms if you, or someone you know, were on this person's flight or visited the below locations at the specified times.

Image on left of measles rash. Image on right of the measles, mumps and rubella virus vaccine.
NSW Health has released a measles alert after a passenger on a plane flew while infectious. Source: Health Direct/Reuters

People may have been exposed to the virus in the following locations:

  • Air India flight AI 302 from Delhi to Sydney, arriving in Sydney on Saturday January 20 at 8.10am,

  • Sydney Airport – Terminal 1 International Arrivals (including baggage claim and customs) and Bay 9, bus and coach bays, on the morning of January 20.

  • Murrays Bus Sydney to Canberra Express, departing Sydney International Airport around 10.30am on January 20. ACT Health is contacting individuals who travelled on this bus service.

Symptoms of measles

Measles is a vaccine-preventable viral disease that is spread through the air when someone who is infectious coughs or sneezes. It is "highly contagious" and can cause "serious complications", according to NSW Health. It remains a common cause of death in children under 5 in some parts of the world.

Symptoms "may appear between 7 and 18 days after exposure" and can include:

  • fever

  • runny nose

  • sore eyes

  • a cough

  • usually followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body.

"It's important for people to stay vigilant if they’ve been exposed," Selvey said. "[And] this should be a reminder for everyone to check that they are protected against measles, which is very infectious.

"Anyone born during or after 1966 needs to ensure they have received two doses of measles vaccine, this is particularly important prior to overseas travel, as measles outbreaks are occurring in several regions of the world at the moment."

Aussies urged to get measles vaccine

The measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is "safe and effective" against measles, NSW Health advises. It is included in the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for children between 12 and 18 months of age and is also free in NSW for anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn’t already had two doses.

Children aged 6 to 12 months can have their first dose of the MMR vaccine earlier if they are travelling to areas considered high risk for measles after checking in with their GP. Those who are unsure of whether they have had two doses "should get a vaccine as additional doses are safe".

If you, or a loved one, is experiencing measles symptoms, or have questions about measles, please call your GP or Healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

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