By Sandra Conchie
A health warning has been issued after a measles-infected passenger flew on two Air New Zealand flights between Auckland and Tauranga last week.
Auckland Regional Public Health Service has confirmed the man with measles flew between Auckland and Tauranga on September 26 before knowing they were infectious.
The man was on flight NZ8129 which departed Auckland for Tauranga at 8.15am that day and flew back to Auckland at 3.10pm on NZ5136.
Health service specialist Dr Maria Poynter said anyone who was on either flight should watch out for signs of measles.
Measles symptoms include a high fever, runny nose, cough and sore eyes, and a few days later a rash appears on the face and neck, before spreading to the rest of the body.
Poynter said anyone who was not immune could develop measles in a few days, but it can take 7 to 14 days before experiencing symptoms.
"You are most at risk if you haven't been vaccinated or haven't had the disease before."
Poynter said anyone on the flights who are unsure whether they had been vaccinated should talk to their GP or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.
Air New Zealand was notified, she said.
Dr Phil Shoemack, Toi Te Ora Public Health Service medical officer of health, said the adult male passenger had only spent time in Tauranga and not travelled elsewhere.
"We contacted the 5-6 people this passenger met in Tauranga and anyone not immunised was advised what symptoms to look out for, and what they should do if they did develop symptoms," he said.
"Given the 20 to 25 minutes duration of both two flights, the risk for other passengers on the same flights contracting measles is not zero, but it is not high."
Shoemack said the latest confirmed case only amplified the reason people need to be immunised and if unsure of their MMR status they should seek medical advice.
As at October 2, 59 cases of measles were confirmed in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District, of which 23 were hospitalised.
Tauranga Airport manager Ray Dumble said he had spoken to a member of Toi Te Ora Public Health's team and he and other airport employees were following their advice.
"We have told all the staff and what symptoms to look out for. This is another reminder to everyone why there is need to be immunised."
An Auckland Regional Public Health spokeswoman said public health units across the country were operating at different stages in managing measles. "In Auckland, for example, we haven't been contact-tracing for some time as it is ineffective once there is a community spread of the disease," the spokeswoman said.
Air New Zealand has been approached for comment.