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Measles alert for travelers through Seattle

On March 28, Seattle and King County Public Health issued a measles alert to travelers who passed through the Sea-Tac airport on March 21 or 22. An individual in the contagious stage of the respiratory illness spent several hours at the airport each of the two days, potentially exposing other travelers. The agency expects anyone infected to show symptoms between March 28 and April 12.

Sea-Tac Airport
kanamas on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The warning comes on the heels of the report on measles cases in California by the California Department of Public Health, updated every Friday. In 2014, the state has counted 49 measles cases. In 2013, for the same three month period, the state had received reports of just four cases.

The Department of Public Health breaks down the reported cases this way:

  • 11 cases in travelers outside of North or South America
  • 30 cases with contact with known measles cases
  • 3 cases with contact with an international traveler
  • 5 cases where the source of the infection is under investigation

The California Department of Public Health provides a description of measles, the period the patient is contagious and its complications:

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that is spread through the air through a cough or a sneeze by someone who is ill with the disease. Symptoms begin with a fever that lasts for a couple of days, followed by a cough, runny nose, red, watery eyes and rash. The rash typically appears first on the face, along the hairline, and behind the ears and then affects the rest of the body.

Infected people are usually contagious for about eight days — four days before their rash starts and four days after. Complications can include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia. In severe cases death can occur. Infants, pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems are more susceptible to complications from measles.

Orange County is at the heart of the outbreak. The county reports 21 measles cases as of March 27. Los Angeles County has ten reported cases. Six other California counties, primarily in Southern California, have reported the remaining 18 cases. Free or low cost measles immunizations are being offered in most California counties through the local public health department.