Visual Representation for Measles Virus | Credits: Getty Images

Measles Scare at US Airport: Health Officials Alert Travelers

United States: Los Angeles County public health officials recently confirmed that a passenger on an onward-bound flight was diagnosed with measles following their arrival at LAX some days prior.

In its May 19 statement, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health identified the passenger as arriving at LAX at terminal 4, Gate 156, on a flight operated by Lufthansa. The flight was bound for Budapest and was flying from Munich. It was tracked on an online flight tracking site called FlightAware. As per the reports from Newsweek, the passenger was then moved to another flight to Fresno, California, operating from Terminal 7, Gate 82, after at least five hours.

Individuals present in the mentioned LAX terminals between approximately 3:04 pm and 9 pm PST could be at risk of contracting measles due to exposure to this traveler, as mentioned in the press release. Those exposed should verify their vaccination status against measles or check if they have previously contracted the disease.

Reports indicate there are no other locations where potential exposures to this traveler might have occurred.

In coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), passengers seated in specific areas on the Lufthansa flights on May 18-19 will be alerted by local health officials about their exposure.

“Measles is an airborne disease that spreads through direct contact even before symptoms manifest and can lead to severe illness,” remarked Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County health officer, in the press release. 

The health expert further added, “It is highly contagious for those lacking immunity. Initially presenting with fever, cough, and red, watery eyes, followed by a rash, it can result in serious complications for young children and vulnerable adults,” Newsweek reported.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory illness found with an ingredient of rash and fever and can advance to pneumonia and other complications. These signs include fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and red eyes.

Possible contamination is by inhalation of droplets from a cough or sneeze by the infected individual. The infection could be contracted after an infected person has been present in a space up to two hours and without having been vaccinated. While the name may suggest otherwise, measles is highly contagious and people infected with it can spread the virus four days before and after development of a rash.

The measles outbreak in America, per the CDC records, indicates that by May 23, 142 cases have been confirmed from 21 states in the current year.

10 outbreaks were observed in 2024, which means three or more interconnected cases, while 68% of total cases, amounting to 097/142, were outbreak-related. In contrast, there were four occurrences in 2023, where approximately 48 percent of the total cases (28 of the 58) were identified as occurring in outbreaks according to Newsweek.

Percent distribution by age shows 33 percent for persons aged between five and eighteen years, 30 percent for those above eighteen years, 27 percent for those within one to five years, and 6 percent for children under five years. However, people between the ages of 5 and 19 years have been reported to be infected in 22 percent of cases compared to those whose ages are over 20 years, which have been reported 31 percent.

The CDC again noted that 82 percent of the cases are either unvaccinated or the people’s vaccination status is not known. It also noted that vaccination coverage among American keystart children declined from 95. From 87. 2 percent during the 2019-2020 school year to 93 percent of those surveyed, students have expressed dissatisfaction with their mental health. If further implementation is to reduce to 1 percent in the financial year 2022-2023, In this case, there is a projection that up to 250,000 children will be affected.

Measles has technically been considered non-endemic in the United States since the year 2000; this basically means that while the disease does not permanently reside in the country and does not affect the population on a continual basis, it can in fact rear its ugly head at any given time due to people who may have contracted the illness while abroad.

Newsweek requested comment from the CDC on importations of measles cases into the US in April, to which the CDC responded, stating that while such cases are expected to continue occurring in the future, the risk is relatively low for most people in the United States because the majority of people receive the measles vaccine.

It further explained, “If measles re-establishes continuous transmission, the US will lose its elimination status. CDC defines measles elimination as the absence of ongoing disease transmission for 12 months or more in a specific geographic area.”

“Although measles cases still occur in the US, most cases can be traced back to travelers who acquire the infection abroad,” the CDC added.

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