By Morgan Jones
Following national news of increased measles cases in the US, health officials in the Pacific Northwest warned that recent air travelers could have been exposed to the disease.
Seattle area health officials warned that a child sick with measles was in the Sea-Tac Airport last week, potentially exposing unvaccinated travelers to the highly contagious disease.
Health officials are reminding the public about measles vaccination, which is generally recommended in two doses.
According to King County Public Health (KCPH), a child infected with measles was at the Sea-Tac Airport during the period that their illness was contagious and before they received a diagnosis.
KCPH reported that the child was in the Concourse A and baggage claim areas of the Sea-Tac Airport on the evening of Monday, May 26 between the times of 6:20 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory virus that is often spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
"The virus can live on infected surfaces for up to 2 hours and spreads so easily that people who are not immune will probably get it when they come close to someone who is infected," explained the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The virus often causes symptoms like cough, runny nose, watery eyes, fever and rash. In some cases, the disease can cause complications, including ear infections, pneumonia, swelling of the brain and even death.
"Measles symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure," explained KCPH. "Measles is contagious from approximately four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash."
For those that were potentially exposed to the infected child, health officials asked that they watch for signs of illness with fever or with an unexplained rash between June 1 and June 16, when symptoms would likely develop if measles was contracted from the case in question.
"To avoid possibly spreading measles to other patients, do not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first to tell them you want to be evaluated for measles," stressed KCPH.
KCPH asked that people who were potentially exposed to the patient confirm that they have had the measles vaccination or had measles before, either of which provides immunity against the virus.
"Most people in our area have immunity to the measles through vaccination, so the risk to the general public is low," said KCPH.
KCPH noted that the child likely contracted measles while traveling overseas and is not thought to have visited other public spaces during the contagious period.
CDC recommends two doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine as a routine vaccination for children in the US. It is typically given first around age 1, then again at around age 4 to 6.
News of the potential exposure at the Sea-Tac Airport follows a report released last week by CDC that found that measles cases in the US are currently at a 20-year high.