Plane diverted for woman with meningococcal disease

According to Australian Health authorities a woman who became ill on a flight from Auckland to Perth last night is suspected to have had meningococcal disease.

There is concern that passengers on the flight, Air New Zealand Flight 175, may have been exposed to the deadly disease.

The 23-year-old woman became so ill during the flight from Auckland that an unscheduled stopover had to be made in Adelaide where she was taken to Royal Adelaide Hospital; she remains in a critical condition.

The woman was looked after on board by the flight crew and a fellow passenger who was a doctor.

The Department of Health is warning passengers on the flight to monitor their health over the next two weeks but say the chance of anyone contracting the disease is unlikely.

They advise passengers to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms including a fever, rash, or headache.

Dr. Paul Van Bynder from the Western Australia Health Department says it was very fortunate the woman was treated by a doctor during the flight and given antibiotics while in the air, and that the plane was diverted rather than continuing on to Perth.

Dr. Van Buynder says meningococcal disease is an uncommon, life-threatening bacterial illness that can cause infection of the blood and/or the lining of the brain.

Van Buynder says there have been no known cases of transmission of meningococcal disease on flights of similar duration and it was unlikely other passengers would contract the disease.

Air New Zealand says the situation is now the responsibility of the health authority in Western Australia who would determine the appropriate follow-up action to contact and treat the other passengers.

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