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February 24, 2024

Possible Measles Exposure at Dulles and Reagan Airports

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Jan 15, 2024

The Virginia Department of Health issued a warning on January 14th about potential measles exposure at Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. An international traveler with a confirmed case of measles arrived at Dulles on an international flight on January 10th and departed from Reagan National Airport on January 11th, potentially exposing others during transit.

Health Officials Scramble to Notify Those Potentially Exposed

Health officials are working aggressively to notify individuals who may have been exposed to measles by the traveler. According to statements from the health department, efforts are focused on identifying contacts the person may have made at the airports and on flights.

“We are coordinating with public health agencies in Virginia, Maryland, and with the airlines to provide notifications to people potentially exposed during this traveler’s infectious period,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver.

Notification efforts focus on contacting individuals who were at the airport at the same time as the infected traveler. Airport terminals are large, open spaces, which makes transmission of measles less likely compared to prolonged close contact. However, unvaccinated individuals who walked by or spent time in the same area as the traveler may still have been exposed.

Health officials have established windows of potential exposure at:

  • Dulles International Airport: January 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport: January 11 from 9:55am to 1:10pm

Measles Highly Contagious, Officials Urge Vaccination

Health experts characterize measles as highly contagious. It is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of unvaccinated people close to that person will also become infected. The virus can be contracted from someone up to 2 hours after that person occupied a space.

The news comes amidst national concern regarding dropping vaccination rates. Northern Virginia vaccination rates match national trends, raising alarms from healthcare leaders.

Locality Completed One Measles Vaccination Completed Both Measles Vaccinations
Alexandria 87% 79%
Arlington 88% 80%
Fairfax 89% 82%
Loudoun 84% 75%

Given the trajectory of declining vaccination rates, health officials emphasize the urgency for unvaccinated individuals to receive inoculations. High household transmission rates make vaccination vital to protecting vulnerable community members unable to receive vaccines for medical reasons.

Dr. Oliver stated, “Individuals who have not been vaccinated or do not have evidence of immunity against measles should call their health care provider if they develop fever, runny nose, cough, red, watery eyes or rash.”

Measles on the Rise, Outbreaks Expected

On the national level, the Washington Post reports cases of measles reached historic levels in 2023. If cases continue rising in 2024, the U.S. could forfeit its elimination status for measles before the end of the year.

Losing elimination status refers to consistent measles transmission lasting longer than one year. Dr. William Moss of John Hopkins outlines how prevention hinges on halting that timeline.

“If we prevent ongoing measles transmission for twelve consecutive months, elimination status can be preserved. But that window is shrinking if vaccination rates don’t improve.”

Already in 2023, the CDC reports measles outbreaks in nearly half the states in the country. The states with the highest numbers of cases include Texas, California, Florida and New York. Travel patterns make Northern Virginia ripe as the next potential hotspot should the elimination timeline not be reset.

Measles Symptoms and Next Steps

Symptoms typically appear 10-14 days after exposure but can occur as late as 21 days after exposure. Beginning symptoms often include high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes which lasts for several days before the characteristic rash develops.

Individuals believing they may have been exposed should contact their healthcare provider immediately if they develop symptoms.

Virginia Health officials will continue working to notify individuals potentially exposed to measles during this traveler’s movements.

Dr. Dan Herrera from the Fairfax Health Department concludes, “Containing this case before outbreak conditions materialize remains our top priority. We urge unvaccinated residents to seeking missing vaccinations immediately to protect themselves, their families, and neighbors.”

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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