Experts Advise Shots in Wake of Measles Scare at Airports

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Travelers scared about contracting measles after a woman confirmed with the highly contagious respiratory disease made her way through three U.S. airports should make sure their immunizations are up to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been trying to contact air passengers and airport workers who may have come into contact with the 27-year-old woman who arrived at Washingtoh Dulles International Airport from London on Feb. 20 and two days later passed through the airports in Baltimore, and Denver on her way to Albuquerque. The woman is from Santa Fe, N.M., and did not show symptoms of measles until she got home.

Georgetown University Medical Center public health expert, Jeanne Matthews, PhD, tells AOL Travel News that the "very contagious, airborne viral disease is communicable about four days prior to the rash and for about four days after the rash appears, so people with the beginnings of fever are communicable before we know that they have measles."

"It is important for adults who were never immunized to receive the immunization, particularly if they are traveling abroad--where the virus is more prevalent," says Matthews, adding, "The best way to protect the population is for parents to immunize their children."

Jeff Dimond, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based CDC says other than having current vaccinations, there is not much else travelers can do to protect themselves.

"If they think they were exposed, they should tell their doctor. If they have gotten their regular vaccinations, they should be fine. If not, get vaccinated," Dimond tells AOL Travel News.

Dimond said that health care authorities are trying to find the passengers who sat about 20 rows in front and 20 rows in back of the Santa Fe woman, but contacting everyone is a problem because many passengers did not give sufficient information to the airlines on how to reach them.

Another issue Dimond detailed is that one of the flights the infected passenger took did not have assigned seating, so everyone on that plane needs to be notified.

Most Americans have been vaccinated for measles or are immune because they've had the disease, but public health officials are concerned about those not immunized, including babies. Pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are also more at risk. Dimond says it's always a good idea to talk to your health care provider before you travel if you have concerns.

The New Mexico Department of Health's scientific laboratory division said the woman had not been immunized against measles, reports the news outlet.

Symptoms of the highly contagious respiratory disease, which is caused by a virus, can include fever, runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and a body rash. The virus, which is spread by sneezing and coughing, can stay in the air for two hours, according to the CDC web site.

In Boston last week, Boston public health officials sought to contain a possible outbreak after an employee of the French consulate came down with the disease earlier this month, reports the Boston Globe.

While the worker is the only confirmed case, three suspected cases are being looked at. One woman with symptoms suggestive of measles lives in the same building as the consulate worker and another symptomatic woman dined in restaurants where the worker had been.

Over the weekend, a man in his 40s with classic symptoms of the disease, including fever, cough, runny nose, rash, was reported.
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