Aviation

Multiple Aussie flights suffer measles scare, airline in hot water over disease-affected pilot

NSW Health is warning airline passengers to be alert for symptoms of measles after one traveller was diagnosed with the highly-contagious disease.

The traveller was found to be infectious after travelling on an international Jetstar flight from Thailand and a domestic flight from Sydney to Melbourne with the same airline. The traveller then boarded a Virgin Australia flight to New Zealand.

The traveller was on the following flights:

  • Jetstar flight JQ28 departing Phuket at 9:45pm on 18 March, arriving Sydney Airport’s T1 international terminal at 10:30am on 19 March;
  • Jetstar flight JQ517 departing Sydney Airport’s T2 domestic terminal at 2pm March 19, arriving at Melbourne Airport Terminal 4 at 3:35pm; and
  • Virgin Australia flight VA99 departing Melbourne Airport Terminal 2 at 6:35pm March 19, arriving at Christchurch Airport at 11:35pm.

NSW Health urges any passenger who was on the same flight or in Sydney Airport’s international and domestic baggage carousels, customs, arrivals and departure areas between 10:30am and 2:30pm on 19 March to check for symptoms until 6 April.

It can take up to 18 days for symptoms to develop after coming into contact with an infectious person.

The news comes just days after it was revealed a Cathay Pacific Airways pilot flew seven flights over four days after contracting the highly-contagious disease.

A flight attendant on one of these flights also contracted measles.

Hong Kong’s aviation authority will investigate the airline, which comes in the wake of the territory’s worst measles outbreak in five years, with 20 cases reported so far.

Last week, a primary school student and backpacker took the number of measles cases identified in NSW to 25 since December, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Victoria has recorded eight cases so far this year.

NSW Health’s Communicable Diseases Branch director, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said people are susceptible to measles if they have never had the disease in the past or have not received two doses of the measles vaccine.

“The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is free in NSW for anyone born during or after 1966 who hasn’t already had two doses,” Sheppeard said. “If you’re unsure whether you’ve had two doses, it’s safe to have another.

Symptoms include fever, sore eyes and a cough, followed three or four days later by a red, blotchy rash spreading from the head and neck to the rest of the body.

“If you develop symptoms, please call ahead to your GP to ensure you do not wait in the waiting room with other patients,” Sheppeard said.

Outbreaks of measles in popular tourist destinations, including countries in Southeast Asia, means the risk for measles being imported into Australia remains high.

Measles is spread in the air through coughing or sneezing by someone who is unwell with the disease.

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