Australian measles case prompts caution in New Zealand

Media release

05 February 2023

A case of measles in Melbourne reported at the end of January is prompting a caution in New Zealand as passengers on the same flight may have been exposed.

Health agencies are asking anyone on an international flight from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne arriving at 6am on 28 January, and who then flew on to New Zealand and has not yet contacted by NZ Health officials, to please contact Healthline.

The call follows confirmation of a case of measles in Australia linked to the flight.

Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora and Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora say there are no reported cases of measles in New Zealand.

As a result of a warning alert from the Australian Health authorities on Thursday evening, 36 travellers thought to be most at risk from potential exposure have now been contacted and advised of precautions to limit the risk of spread of measles.

The National Public Health Service within Te Whatu Ora have made the calls to check immunity, offer vaccination where appropriate, and also advise on a short period of quarantine where this is recommended.

Symptoms of measles can develop between 7 to 18 days after exposure.

The person with measles remains in Australia.

New Zealand health services remain in contact with their Australian counterparts to monitor any further developments.

Initially health services here understood that all the ongoing travellers to New Zealand from that flight had been identified, though authorities are now aware that some travellers may have also been on other flights to New Zealand which is now prompting a broader alert.

At this stage, the public health risk associated with these close contacts is considered low but this is a timely reminder that New Zealand remains at risk of measles being imported into New Zealand following international travel.

The best protection against measles is to be vaccinated with two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine. The MMR vaccine is free.

If you or your anyone in your whānau born after 1969 has not had an MMR vaccine, or aren't sure, ask your GP, parent or caregiver.

If you are travelling overseas with children, please check their vaccines are up to date before leaving. Outbreaks of measles have been recently reported in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the USA. Travel to these regions may put unvaccinated children at risk of infection and increase the risk of importation of measles into New Zealand.

If an imported case is confirmed, it is important to act quickly to limit its spread.

Because measles is so infectious, it’s important that infected people isolate – staying at home from school or work. People who are infectious will need to isolate from the time that they may have become infected until four days after the rash first appears.

It’s also very important people with symptoms don’t visit their GP or after-hours clinics but phone their family doctor/GP team for advice instead, to limit further exposure to other people. In the first instance contact Healthline for advice on 0800 611 116 for advice if symptomatic and for advice on where to get vaccinated.

New Zealand is one of 81 countries verified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having eliminated endemic measles. New Zealand has not seen sustained transmission of measles in the community for longer than a year since 2014 – our formal recognition of measles elimination by the WHO was in 2017. 

The MMR vaccine is free. If you or your anyone in your whānau born after 1969 has not had an MMR vaccine, or aren't sure, ask your GP, parent or caregiver.

The first symptoms of measles include a fever, cough, runny nose and sore and watery ‘pink’ eyes. This is followed by a blotchy rash. If you catch measles you're infectious 4 days before and until 5 days after the rash appears.

People are considered immune if they have received two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, have had a measles illness previously, or were born before 1969.

Flight details

Flight ETD462/EY462, Abu Dhabi, UAE to Melbourne

Departed: Abu Dhabi Airport, 27 January, 10:15 am

Arrived Melbourne: Saturday, 28 January, 6 am
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