Visitors to airports in Detroit; Newark, N.J.; and Memphis may have been exposed to measles after cases were confirmed in two international travelers, health officials in two states said Tuesday.
But people who received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine twice as children are considered protected for life, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said. Others who have not been vaccinated or had only one shot could come down with the disease, which can be life threatening.
• Detroit. People who visited the North Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on the afternoon of March 6 likely were exposed to the highly contagious virus, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Someone infected could develop symptoms as late as next week
• Newark. Passengers in terminals B and C of Newark Liberty International Airport also were exposed and could develop symptoms as late as April 2, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.
• Memphis. The young child diagnosed with measles arrived in Newark from Brussels and flew to Memphis International Airport that evening, exposing others along the way, New Jersey health officials said.
In Detroit, "anyone who was in customs or baggage claim in the airport's North Terminal between 2 and 5 p.m. (ET) that day should seek medical attention from their primary care provider if they develop symptoms of the disease," Michigan health officials said in a news release.
But call the doctor first. A person with measles sitting in a reception area waiting for treatment can transmit the disease.
Detroit Metropolitan Airport is a hub for Delta Air Lines in its McNamara Terminal. Various airlines have international flights — many based in the North Terminal — that fly to and from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Mexico and the Netherlands.
Passengers at Newark airport between 12:45 and 9 p.m. Monday could have been exposed to the measles virus, New Jersey officials said. It was not immediately known what flight the infected child boarded to Memphis and when the youngster arrived, but United does have a 7 p.m. Monday flight to Memphis that arrives around 9:10 p.m. CT.
International travelers who arrived in Newark's Terminal B on flights from Amsterdam; Beijing; Bogota; Brussels; Cancun, Mexico; Copenhagen; Dublin; Edinburgh; Frankfurt; Geneva; Havana; London; Madrid; Manchester, United Kingdom; Lisbon, Portugal; Lomé, Togo; Mexico City; Monrovia, Liberia; Munich; Oslo; Panama City, Panama; Paris; Quebec; Reykjavik, Iceland; Santiago, Chile; Shanghai; Tel Aviv, Israel; Toronto; and Zurich were potentially exposed. Domestic flights from Atlanta; Cincinnati; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Minneapolis; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Orlando; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; and Salt Lake City also arrived during that time, according to Newark airport's flight list.
Other travelers were exposed as the child made the trek to Terminal C, sat on the flight to Memphis and arrived at the airport terminal there.
Measles begins with a "high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose" and extreme sensitivity to light, according to the department.
Not only is measles very contagious — it spreads through a cough or sneeze and even by being in a room up to two hours after an infected person has left — children younger than 5 can face serious complications, including permanent hearing loss from ear infections; pneumonia, which is a lung infection; or a swelling of the brain called encephalitis. Pregnant women are susceptible to giving birth prematurely or having a low-weight baby.
The illness has a 10- to 12-day incubation period. After the earlier symptoms, it develops into a red, raised body rash that starts on the head and face before progressing to the rest of the body.
People may be contagious for a few days before symptoms become noticeable, health department officials said.
The first of two measles vaccinations that also combine protection from mumps and rubella, often called German measles, generally is given to children 12 months old. But infants as young as 6 months can get a measles vaccine if they're traveling internationally, Michigan health officials said.
The measles case reported Tuesday was confirmed in Washtenaw County, whose county seat is Ann Arbor, and it's Michigan's first in 2018. The person had returned from travel abroad March 6 and was contagious at the time, according to the Michigan health department.
The Michigan measles patient was hospitalized and is now recovering.
In 2017, measles cases numbered 118 in the United States, and the majority of people diagnosed had not been vaccinated, according to the Michigan health department. The average number of measles cases from 2001 to 2012 nationwide has been about 60.
So far as of Feb. 24 this year, 13 people in seven states — Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas — have contracted measles, the CDChas reported. On Jan. 2, an Indiana University student who later developed measles arrived on an international flight in Newark's Terminal C and departed for Indianapolis.
Many of the 188 cases reported in a 2015 outbreak were tied to an infected person who visited Disneyland. More than half of the 667 measles cases reported in 2014 occurred in unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.
“This case underscores the importance of following vaccine recommendations and being up-to-date on vaccines,” said Dr. Eden Wells, the Michigan health department's chief medical executive. “Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles."