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Health officials warn of potential measles exposure at Philadelphia International Airport before Memorial Day

Health officials issue warning about possible measles exposure at Philadelphia International Airport
Health officials issue warning about possible measles exposure at Philadelphia International Airport 00:27

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Health officials are warning of a potential measles exposure at Philadelphia International Airport on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

The city's Department of Public Health said the possible exposure happened in the federal inspection area of Terminal A West on May 31, from 2:50 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The health department said the possible exposure is unrelated to recent measles cases in the city.

"We believe there is no threat to the general public associated with this case of measles," Dr. Landrus Burress, the Department of Public Health's director of division of disease control, said in a statement. "We encourage people who were possibly exposed to take action if they are not protected against measles."

Burress said many countries are experiencing measles outbreaks, leading to the potential of more travel-related cases, and he encourage parents to get their children vaccinated against measles. He also recommended travelers to consult with a doctor about vaccinations before leaving the country.

Burress said anyone who isn't protected against measles who may have been exposed and develops symptoms through June 21, 2024, should call their doctor.

What is measles?

Measles is a highly contagious airborne disease caused by a virus "one of the most contagious diseases," according to the CDC.

The CDC says humans are the only natural hosts of the virus.

Early symptoms of measles include fever, runny nose, cough and red, puffy eyes followed by a rash, Burress said.

Health officials say the disease is contagious from four days before to four days after a rash begins. It can spread before a rash develops too.

The CDC says the airborne virus can remain infectious for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area.

How to prevent measles

Measles can be protected against by the shot for measles, mumps and rubella, known as the MMR vaccine. According to the CDC, the vaccine is typically given to children in two doses — one at 12 to 15 months and another at 4 to 6 years old.

The measles shot is also part of the MMRV vaccine, which includes varicella (chicken pox).

Adults can also get vaccinated. Health officials say a blood test can help adults determine if they're immune to the disease. Health experts recommend any unvaccinated adults get a dose of the MMR vaccine.

The CDC said before the vaccine, it was likely that there were 3 to 4 million people who were infected with the virus annually.

Health officials declared measles eliminated in 2000, but cases and outbreaks remain. Philadelphia had a measles outbreak at the end of last year and the beginning of 2024.

One dose of the MMR vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing the disease and two doses are 97% effective, the CDC says.

What is the treatment for measles?

The Mayo Clinic says there is no specific treatment for measles, but treatment includes taking comfort measures and medications such as fever reducers, antibiotics and Vitamin A. The Mayo Clinic also recommends resting, drinking fluids and moistening the air.

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