Measles cases popping up in airports causing concern

Five US airports have confirmed having travelers with the measles pass through this month. Health officials are now urging folks who may have been exposed to the highly infectious disease, to be on the lookout for any symptoms.

Health officials in Chicago, Richmond, Virginia, Denver, Los Angeles, and Austin are now urging those who were at those airports in December and potentially exposed, to keep an eye out for any symptoms.

Dr. Shereen Alikhan is a pediatrician at Memorial Hermann.

“Measles is airborne spread so if someone coughs or sneezes, the airborne particles have now entered the air. It can live up to two hours in that space where it's been transmitted,” Dr. Alikhan said.

Dr. Alikhan said symptoms sometimes may not show until nearly two weeks after exposure.

“Usually you have fever, cough, a runny nose, conjunctivitis - that's like the redness and the watery eyes. You can get little white spots in the mouth and then a rash. The rash usually starts 3-4 days after the fever starts and then it spreads from your face all the way down to your body,” Alikhan said.

"Measles can be challenging to diagnose, particularly during flu season because many of the symptoms that happen before the rash appears are absolutely the same as flu,” said Dr. Mark Escott with Austin Public Health.

Authorities believe a man who contracted measles while abroad in Europe flew out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a United Airlines flight December 17 and traveled to Chicago and Virginia.

His case is the first time in 20 years that measles has been reported in Travis County.

Earlier this summer, the CDC issued a global measles outbreak notice, urging people, especially infants to get vaccinated before traveling.          

“It's the anti-vaccine movement, unfortunately, that’s kind of brought this about because this was something that was essentially eradicated & eliminated and now is kind of coming back right to the forefronts cause you have people that are not vaccinated, immunized or protected that are exposing everybody else,” Dr. Alikhan said.

Doctors recommend using basic germ prevention methods like washing your hands and staying away from those who might be coughing or sneezing.

However, ultimately they say getting the MMR vaccine is the only sure way to prevent getting the measles.

The CDC said infants as young as 6-months-old can get the first dose and a second booster shot is given to kids around 4 to 6 years old.