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Potential exposure to measles from traveler at airport

Summary

Public Health – Seattle & King County was notified of a confirmed measles case in an adult with possible exposures in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Story

Public Health – Seattle & King County was notified yesterday, May 30, of a confirmed measles case in an adult who traveled through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on May 10 and May 11, 2024 while infectious. The individual is a resident of Arizona and was likely exposed to measles while traveling to or within Europe. The person’s vaccine status is unknown.

“Measles is highly contagious and if you don’t have immunity, you can get it just by being in a room where a person with measles has been," said Dr. Eric Chow, Communicable Disease Chief for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “We’ve seen an increase in measles cases around the world and in the U.S., so it’s an important time to check your vaccination status and get vaccinated if you aren’t protected.

Fortunately, the measles vaccine is very effective. Two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides about 97% protection against getting infected by measles and that protection lasts a lifetime.”

Locations of potential exposure to the public

Transmission of measles can occur before people know they have the disease, before any rash appears.

The infected individual was at the following public locations before being diagnosed with measles. These times include the period when the individual was at the location and two hours after. Measles virus can remain in the air for up to two hours after someone infectious with measles leaves the area. Anyone who was at the following locations during the times listed could have been exposed to measles:

Date

Time

Location

5/10/24

Approximately 5:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, S Concourse (Gate S1), through Customs to International Arrivals Facility Baggage Claim (Carousel 19)

5/11/24

Approximately 7:30 am - 11:30 a.m.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, A Concourse (Gate A8)

What to do if you were in a location of potential measles exposure

Most people in our area have immunity to the measles through vaccination, so the risk to the general public is low. However, anyone who was in the locations of potential exposure to measles around the times listed should:

  • Find out if you have been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously. Make sure you are up-to-date with the recommended number of measles (MMR) vaccinations.

  • Call a healthcare provider promptly if you develop an illness with fever or with an unexplained rash. To avoid possibly spreading measles to others, do not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first to tell them you want to be checked for measles after an exposure. And it is also important to limit contact with others, especially those without known immunity.

If you were at the locations at the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick would be between May 17, 2024 - June 1, 2024. People who are immuno-compromised may take longer to experience symptoms.

About measles

Measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that causes fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. If one person has it, up to 9 out of 10 people nearby will become infected if they are not protected. It mainly spreads through the air after a person with measles coughs or sneezes.

Measles symptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure. Measles is contagious from about four days before the rash appears through four days after the rash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristic measles rash.

Measles can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and rarely, encephalitis (brain inflammation).

Complications from measles can happen even in healthy people, but those at highest risk include: infants and children under 5 years, adults over 20 years, pregnant people, and people with weakened immune systems from medications or underlying disease.

If you are in one of these high-risk groups and were exposed to measles at one of these locations, be sure to contact your health care provider to discuss any steps you need to take to protect yourself or loved ones against complications with measles. 

Measles is preventable with the safe and highly effective measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two doses of the MMR vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles and that protection is long lasting.

For more information about measles and measles vaccination, including where to get measles vaccinations: www.kingcounty.gov/measles


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