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Travelers who passed through Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in February may have been exposed to the measles virus.
According to a statement released this week by The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, a person carrying the virus landed at Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), Gate 133, on China Eastern flight 583 on Feb. 21 — just one day before another measles-infected passenger arrived at Chicago Midway (MDW).
Following a layover, the person departed on Delta flight 5705 out of Terminal 3, Gate 32. Health officials are now warning that anyone who was in either TBIT or Terminal 3 between 9am and 9pm on that day could have been exposed to the virus. Passengers on Delta flight 5705 have also been notified.
The measles virus is considered highly contagious by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and can survive up to two hours in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. Common symptoms of measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, red or watery eyes (conjunctivitis also occurs in some cases) and a rash of little red bumps that spreads from the forehead down the body.
As many as 90% of people who come in close contact with a person infected with the measles virus are likely to catch the disease if they aren’t immune.
The LA County Department of Public Health also stated that if exposed individuals have not developed any measles symptoms by March 14, they are no longer considered at risk for developing the virus.
Dr. Rajiv Narula, MD — founder of the International Travel Health Consultants — told The Points Guy that travelers concerned about having contracted the virus should call their physician, rather than go immediately to a hospital or clinic and risk infecting others. “Let [him or her] know you may have been exposed and see if you have the vaccines.”
The measles virus is extremely preventable through the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Considered safe and effective by health officials, two doses of the vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles.
Yet, despite a reported 99% reduction in measles cases in the US today when compared to the “prevaccination” era, measles is still fairly common in other countries and can be carried from abroad by unvaccinated travelers.
If you aren’t immune, Dr. Narula also said you can get immune globulin antibodies as something of a last-ditch effort to avoid the measles. And travelers with infants should consider getting their children vaccinated early, especially if traveling to a destination where measles is still prevalent, or outbreaks have been reported.
In 2019, the CDC has already identified six measles outbreaks in the US and is monitoring cases across 12 states. And with the antivaccination movement that the World Health Organization has dubbed a major global health threat growing, measles cases have increased by 30% around the world.
Featured image by Ken Ross/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images.
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