Southwest passengers might have been exposed to measles

Henrietta Strickland
September 10, 2018

The Houston Health Department (HHD) is working with Southwest Airlines in the investigation of a case of measles involving a north Texas resident who recently connected flights in Houston.

The passenger was diagnosed with measles after traveling, a Southwest representative told TIME, but health department said the person was contagious at the time of the flights.

The agency says the disease is extremely contagious and could become risky if not treated properly.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs, according to the CDC. The next day, 12 passengers on two global American Airlines flights into Philadelphia were found to have "flu-like symptoms".

"People at the airport are at a much lower risk of exposure than passengers on the flights with the patient", said Dr. David Persse, Houston Health Department Local Health Authority.

Passengers exposed to this patient may develop symptoms as late as September 12, 2018, according to the health department.

The viral infection causes symptoms including rash, fever, sore throat, inflamed eyes and runny nose, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The virus can kill in rare instances, but vaccinations have reduced cases by more than 99% in the USA since the 1960s, according to the CDC.

The measles virus can kill in rare cases.

This means most measles cases are brought back to the United States of America by unvaccinated people who get infected during a trip to a measles endemic country.

Vaccinations have gone a long way in reducing the incidence of measles.

Two doses of the vaccine are 97 percent effective against measles.

The CDC says that before the introduction of the vaccine in 1963, about 3 million to 4 million people a year contracted measles in the USA - of those, about 400 to 500 died and about 1,000 developed encephalitis. Since then, measles vaccines have reduced instances of the disease by 99%, according to the CDC, though the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most measles cases in the U.S. are related to global travel.

"With this Southwest incident, it's already been two weeks, so usually we start seeing measles cases after two weeks", said Dr. Peter Hotez with Baylor College of Medicine. These outbreaks most commonly happen after an un-vaccinated person travels overseas, then spreads the virus to other un-vaccinated individuals in the US.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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