-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- On airplanes, measles
can spread beyond the passengers seated immediately around an
infected person, a new study says.
Researchers analyzed data on 45 people with measles (primary
cases) who traveled on 49 separate airline flights to or within
Australia between January 2007 and June 2011.
The primary cases infected 20 other people on seven of the
flights, and these secondary cases developed measles within 10 to
14 days after exposure. All of the secondary cases occurred on
international flights, and none occurred on flights within
Most of the primary cases were Australians who were infected in
other countries, and nearly all of the secondary cases were also
Australians, according to the study scheduled for presentation at a
meeting of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases,
Wednesday through Saturday in Canberra.
Nine (45 percent) of the secondary cases were seated within two
rows of the primary cases, while 11 (55 percent) were seated
farther away. Secondary cases were more likely to occur when
children were the primary cases or when multiple people with
measles were traveling on the same plane.
The findings suggest that direct contact tracing of airline
passengers seated within two rows of a person with measles -- as is
currently recommended in some international public health
guidelines -- is not an effective way to prevent further cases, the
"We recommend that direct contact tracing to identify susceptible people exposed to measles cases on [airplanes] should not be undertaken routinely, and other strategies should be considered," wrote Dr. Gary Dowse, Communicable Disease Control Directorate in the department of health, Perth, Australia, and colleagues.
Suggestions for other strategies include using media alerts to
inform people about flights on which passengers might have been
exposed to measles, and to provide advice about what people should
do in such cases.
Another possible strategy would be to use email or other types
of electronic messaging to alert all passengers who may have been
exposed to measles on flights.
Measles, a highly contagious virus, is a leading killer of
children globally even though a vaccination is available. In 2011,
measles caused 158,000 deaths worldwide, according to the World
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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