Measles Exposure Threat Expands to Chicago O’Hare Airport

Jan 15, 2018

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On Friday, we learned that a traveler with a confirmed case of measles passed through Newark Airport (EWR) on January 2, 2018 — exposing fellow travelers to the highly contagious disease for up to 11 hours. Now, a strikingly similar case is being reported for Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

On January 10, 2018, a passenger with a confirmed case of measles arrived in O’Hare’s Terminal 5 from an international flight around 6:30am. The passenger departed on a domestic flight out of Terminal 1, but “may have traveled to other areas of the airport” during the layover. The Illinois Department of Health warns that passengers in the airport between 6:30am and 1:00pm “may have been exposed to measles.”

Those who passed through the airport at that time should monitor for symptoms of measles, which could develop as late as three weeks after exposure. That would mean travelers could potentially have symptoms appear as late as January 31, 2018. Measles symptoms include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

If you show symptoms, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommends you call a health care provider before going to a medical office or emergency department. Special arrangements can be made for your evaluation while also protecting other patients and medical staff from possible infection.

As with the measles exposure from the passenger connecting through Newark, the IDPH isn’t publicly sharing the flights on which the infected passenger traveled. Instead, the department’s statement notes that “local health departments are working to notify Illinois residents who were identified as being potentially exposed on the ill person’s flights.” That said, the only domestic departures from Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1 are operated by United and United Express.

IDPH’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Layden urges everyone to ensure that they’re up to date on their vaccines:

Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97% effective in preventing measles. We urge everyone to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations.  Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects others around you who are too young to get the vaccine or can’t receive it for medical reasons.

Featured image by Scott Olson / Getty Images

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