18 Feb 2016

Man who sparked measles scare won't be prosecuted

6:36 am on 18 February 2016

Auckland health officials will not be prosecuting a man who defied quarantine instructions and prompted a measles scare.

Sky City Auckland.

Sky City Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Hundreds of people are being told to check their immunity to the disease and quarantine themselves until next Saturday if there is any chance they have been infected.

Auckland Medical Officer of Health Richard Hoskins said the man arrived in Auckland on 30 January and was infected by a passenger he was seated two rows behind on his flight from China.

Anyone at the Sky City Casino last Tuesday night between 9.45pm and midnight may have picked up the highly infectious disease from the man, who just hours earlier had been told to stay home.

The man visited Sugar Tree Apartments from Tuesday to Saturday last week.

Health officials are warning that anyone who used lifts and common areas in the Sugar Tree building on those days could also have been exposed.

Residents were sent a letter from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service saying anyone who is unsure whether they are immune to measles should get a blood test.

The letter said people who were not immune or did not get a blood test done would need to quarantine (go into home isolation) until 27 February and watch for measles symptoms.

Early symptoms include a fever, and one or more of a runny nose, cough and sore red eyes. After a few days a red blotchy rash would start on the face and spread to the rest of the body.

Dr Hoskins said he could not explain why the infected man had spent more than two hours at the Casino despite instructions to stay home.

"This person knows how disappointed we are with their failure to follow the instructions we gave them."

However the man was unlikely to face any further repercussions.

"We're not a prosecuting type service and although there are bits of the Health Act that do allow some things to happen this is not a path we have ever gone down before in terms of prosecuting or penalising people - so I'd be extremely surprised.

"And frankly, we're much too busy at the moment trying to manage this potential outbreak."

He said while a good percentage of the population had been vaccinated for the disease it was not at the level to stop an outbreak.

The man was likely to have come into contact with hundreds of people, and dozens were expected to need temporary quarantine.

People who were feeling unwell and had been at either the casino or the nearby apartments needed to call their doctor or Healthline immediately for advice.

Union concerned for workers

Unite Union has 800 members who work at Sky City.

National director Mike Treen said the union would be getting in touch with its members as soon as possible.

"Somebody doing something like this - entering a casino when they have a contagious disease - is almost criminally negligent in my view in terms of the possible consequences."

Mr Treen said the union would be working with the casino to make sure nothing was overlooked.

Sky City would not comment last night.