Measles exposure at three major U.S. airports, CDC confirms

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Officials are attempting to warn individuals who may have come in contact with a confirmed case of measles at Dulles, Denver and Albuquerque International Airports.

A woman with a confirmed case of the measles traveled through Washington Dulles International Airport, Denver International Airport and Albuquerque International Airport, according to Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Colorado health officials issued a warning on Friday for travelers and workers at Denver International Airport of possible exposure to the measles.

“A person with the measles arrived at DIA, Gate C39, at approximately 9 p.m. and remained in the area for several hours,” the statement from the Colorado Health Department said. “People who were working or traveling through Concourse C at DIA on Tuesday after 9 p.m. should monitor themselves for any early symptoms of measles, especially fever, from March 1 to March 12. People who develop a fever should contact their health care provider or their local or state health department. People with symptoms should not go to child care, school, work or out in public, as they might have the early symptoms of measles and might be contagious. People with these symptoms should call their doctor to inform the office about their symptoms before showing up in the waiting room.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the measles, also called rubeola, include cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes, sore throat, fever and a red, blotchy skin rash. “By 2000, the measles vaccine had practically eliminated measles in the United States,” states the MayoClinc.com website. “But there has been a recent resurgence of the disease, as more people have chosen not to vaccinate their children.” Prior to the development of the measles vaccine, more than 3 million cases of the measles were seen in the U.S. each year.

People with the measles are contagious for four days before and four days after the rash appears, which typically happens seven to 18 days after a person is exposed to the virus. Treatments, according to MayoClinic.com, include:

  • Post-exposure vaccination: Nonimmunized people, including infants, may be given the measles vaccination within 72 hours of exposure to the measles virus, to provide protection against the disease. If measles still develops, the illness usually has milder symptoms and lasts for a shorter time.
  • Immune serum globulin: Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems who are exposed to the virus may receive an injection of proteins (antibodies) that can fight off infection, called immune serum globulin. When given within six days of exposure to the virus, these antibodies can prevent measles or make symptoms less severe.
  • Analgesics: You or your child may also take over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) or naproxen (Aleve) to help relieve the fever that accompanies measles. Don't give aspirin to children because of the risk of Reye's syndrome — a rare but potentially fatal disease.
  • Antibiotics: If a bacterial infection, such as pneumonia or an ear infection, develops while you or your child has measles, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

The passenger with the measles is from New Mexico, and was traveling from the United Kingdom; officials believe the woman contracted the disease overseas. Although measles is seldom seen in the United States, where vaccinations are required for all school children, the disease is a leading cause of death among children in developing nations.

According to the Colorado Health Department statement, “People are considered immune to measles if they were born in the United States before 1957, previously had measles or have had two measles shots.”

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