Measles warning issued for Detroit airport fliers after disease travels from overseas


A poster educating parents and children about measles is displayed at the Tamalpais Pediatrics clinic on Feb. 6, 2015, in Greenbrae, Calif. (Eric Risberg/AP)

A confirmed carrier of the measles disease passed through the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on March 6, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.

And if you passed through the airport that day and have never been immunized against the disease, be wary of any symptoms developing soon.

A person carrying the disease traveled from India to Detroit, agency spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told The Washington Post, but she declined to provide the gender of the person. The individual was mainly at customs and the baggage area in the north terminal, posing the most risk for anyone who was there from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the agency said.

The person lives in Washtenaw County, an area west of Detroit that includes Ann Arbor. That person sought medical treatment soon after arriving, Sutfin said.

Anyone in those airport locations in that time frame who experiences high fever, red eyes, coughing, a runny nose or light sensitivity followed by a bumpy rash should contact their primary-care doctor, the agency said. Symptoms manifest 10 to 12 days after infection but could be spread to other people before that.

Measles is notoriously contagious for people without immunity to the disease, with a 90 percent infection rate for nonimmunized people who venture near an active spreader, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus latches onto the nose and throat mucus and proliferates through coughing and sneezing, with a life span of up to two hours in the open air.

About 9 out of 10 children in the United States receive their measles vaccines, and the vaccine’s effectiveness rate is above 90 percent, the CDC says. The Michigan health agency said only two of the 118 cases of measles in the United States last year were in the state.

At this point, if you are digging into your vaccination records, immunization for the disease may show up as MMR — the common cocktail immunization for measles, mumps and rubella.

There have been recent concerns about the disease.

In late February, an Australian tourist with measles visited numerous places in New York, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, triggering a similar advisory.

Three babies were recently infected with measles at a Kansas child-care facility, the Kansas City Star reported Tuesday. They were only months old and not yet ready for the MMR vaccine, typically administered at 12 to 15 months. The babies were treated and were not in danger, the paper reported.

Despite global efforts to combat the disease, measles has remained a serious threat, mostly to children in the developing world. In 2016, there were 89,780 measles deaths worldwide, the first year that the figure dipped below six figures, the World Health Organization said. The World Bank found that India, at 88 percent, has a relatively lower rate of measles immunization than the United States, which stands at 92 percent.

The disease has sometimes roared back in the United States as some people have eschewed vaccinations for their children. For instance, MMR vaccination rates in Somali communities in Minnesota dropped 50 percentage points from 2004 to 2014 after the anti-vaccination movement gained traction there, sparking the worst measles outbreak in the state in three decades.

In 2015, dozens of people at Disneyland contracted the virus in an outbreak that prompted state officials to warn nonimmunized people to stay away from the park. Disneyland is in Orange County, Calif., an anti-vaxxer hotbed.

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