Passengers who travelled on a flight from Los Angeles to Auckland last Saturday morning are being warned they may have been exposed to measles.

Dr Maria Poynter of Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said an Auckland resident was infectious with measles on flight NZ001 departing Los Angeles on Thursday, August 15 at 9.40pm, and landing in Auckland on Saturday, August 17 at 5.30am.

"There is some risk that other passengers may contract measles if they are not immune. We would ask that anyone on this flight checks their medical records if they are under 50 years to see if they have had at least one MMR vaccination, or have had the measles previously, making them immune.

"They should also watch out for symptoms over the next few days - a fever, runny nose, cough, sore red eyes and then a rash. Unfortunately people are infectious five days before the rash appears, so don't usually know they have measles. They continue to be contagious for five days after this," Poynter said.


Passengers on the flight who start to feel unwell should phone their doctor or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice.

"If you feel unwell, please don't just turn up. It is important to call first, because measles is highly infectious and you could infect others in the waiting room," Poynter said.

This comes as another 31 Aucklanders have been infected with measles in the past 48 hours, with fears looming that New Zealand is verging closer to losing its World Health Organization (WHO) "elimination" status.

The total number of confirmed cases of the highly infectious, and potentially deadly, disease in Auckland has jumped to 616 today, of which 423 have been in South Auckland.

Waitemata District Health Board confirmed 121 cases and Auckland City has had 72.

MEASLES UPDATE: We've seen a huge increase of 160 cases since last Friday, so we've scaled back our map to DHB areas. A...

Posted by Auckland Regional Public Health Service on Thursday, 22 August 2019

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) says it has seen a huge increase of 160 cases since last Friday.

It stresses that the only way to stop the spread of measles is to ensure everyone living in New Zealand has had at least 1 MMR vaccination. Children can receive the vaccination at 12 months and at 4 years.

This comes as experts warn the spread will likely continue unless nationwide immunisation rates improve.


"Unless New Zealand can do more to improve our community immunity, to stop these cases continuing to spread to others, we are at significant risk of losing our elimination status," Immunisation Advisory Centre director and GP Dr Nikki Turner told the Herald earlier this month.

Turner said it would take several years to get that status back, which was a "huge concern" as further outbreaks would be likely.

Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner, GP and director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) at the University of Auckland. Photo / File
Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner, GP and director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) at the University of Auckland. Photo / File

The disease would no longer be coming from abroad but could also start from within New Zealand, Turner said.

She said the outbreak in the Counties Manukau region was of biggest concern because it had been consistent since March. Only 61 per cent of infants in that region were being immunised on time.

New Zealand gained the WHO measles elimination status for the first time in 2017 after proving there had been no outbreak for more than three years. The WHO aims for 95 per cent immunity coverage nationwide. However, New Zealand currently only has 91 per cent, with timely infant immunisation rates as low as 61 per cent in some regions.

Nine out of 10 people who contracted measles this year had not been vaccinated or didn't know their vaccination status, figures by Government agency, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research figures, showed.

For more information or advice on measles, please call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or see the Auckland Regional Public Health website.