Health alert issued after measles case confirmed on Abu Dhabi to Dublin flight

Irish authorities send out warning after passenger found to have contracted virus

Etihad Airways said it has been informed by health authorities in Ireland that one of its passengers tested positive for measles. AFP
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An urgent health alert has been issued to passengers on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Dublin after a fellow traveller was found to have measles.

Ireland's Health Service Executive has asked some passengers on board the Etihad Airways flight, which landed in the Irish capital at 6.30am on Saturday, to contact them.

The health body advised passengers who are pregnant, immunocompromised or have children under the age of 12 months to come forward.

They were asked to contact their local HSE Department of Public Health or call the HSE on 1800 700 700, or 00 353 1 240 8787 if calling from outside of Ireland.

The HSE also called on other people on board the flight to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles. Any potential symptoms should be monitored until March 30, which would mark 21 days from the potential date of exposure.

Symptoms of the virus include a runny nose, sneezing and coughing, sore or red eyes, a temperature of 38°C or above and a rash, which usually appears on the head and neck before spreading to the rest of the body.

It said passengers who recorded symptoms should isolate at home and seek advice by phone.

“HSE Public Health teams will continue to work with Etihad Airways,” the health executive said.

No details have been disclosed on the passenger who contracted the virus.

Etihad Airways said it was following safety procedures in regards to the measles case.

"Etihad Airways has been informed by health authorities in Ireland that a passenger has tested positive for measles after the arrival of flight EY045 from Abu Dhabi to Dublin on 9 March," an Etihad Airways spokesperson said.

"Etihad Airways is following procedures and guidelines specified by the relevant health authorities and as per government guidelines, all close contact tracing will be carried out by the respective authority.

"The safety and wellbeing of its passengers and crew is Etihad’s number one priority."

The Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland has also called on passengers on the flight to be vigilant.

“Following a risk assessment with public health colleagues in the Health Service Executive, the PHA is asking any residents of Northern Ireland who were on Etihad Airways flight EY045 from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, which arrived in Dublin on Saturday March 9 2024, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of measles,” it said.

“These treatments will work best if given within the next few days.

“Those who are at greatest risk are those who were on Etihad Airways flight EY045 and are: children under 12 months old; pregnant women; and people who are immunocompromised.”

Alarm raised over measles surge

An Irish man died due to complications caused by measles in February. The man in his 40s contracted the virus after travelling to Birmingham where he went to hospital before being diagnosed on his return to Ireland.

The area is one of the worst affected in Britain, amid rising rates of the disease in the UK, with the head of the UK Health Security Agency Jenny Harries warning that the outbreak will get substantially worse unless action is taken to raise vaccination rates.

Between January and October last year, there were more than 30,000 measles cases reported in Europe, compared to just 941 cases for the entirety of 2022.

Poor vaccination coverage has been cited as being largely to blame, with the Covid-19 pandemic contributing to missed immunisations among children.

Possible complications of measles include blindness, encephalitis – which is an infection causing brain swelling and potentially brain damage, severe diarrhoea and related dehydration, ear infections and severe breathing problems including pneumonia.

Complications are most common in children under five years old and adults over the age of 30.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus can be transmitted by an infected person from four days before the onset of the rash to four days after the rash erupts.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 7:46 AM