- Special Pages
SYDNEY: Measles can be spread on planes in rows far beyond infected passengers, a Australian study showed yesterday, raising questions over control guidelines for the disease.
Australian policy, which is similar to that of the United States and Europe, calls for travellers seated in the same row, and in two rows in front of and two rows behind the patient, to be contacted.
But new research published at the annual scientific meeting of the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases in Canberra shows that this approach may be missing half of the cases transmitted on flights.
The research by Gary Dowse from Western Australia’s Communicable Disease Control Directorate and colleagues said there was a low risk of catching measles on a plane in Australia, where the disease has been eliminated. But in those cases where an infection was transmitted, it took an average of eight days before the patient was diagnosed, health officials informed, airlines and customs contacted and the passengers’ details retrieved.
By this time, the window in which to administer a vaccine or other preventative medical help had been lost, Dowse said. “So in most instances our policy is ineffective because we find out too late,” he said ahead of the release of the study. “And despite the policy, more than half the secondary cases that are going to occur are seated outside the two rows.” The study looked at all measles cases notified in Australia between January 2007 to June 2011 in which the patient was likely to have been infectious while travelling on a plane.AFP