Newark Travelers Warned of Potential Measles Exposure

Image: The Welcome Center at Newark Liberty International Airport. (photo via Flickr/brownpau)
Image: The Welcome Center at Newark Liberty International Airport. (photo via Flickr/brownpau)
Monica Poling
by Monica Poling
Last updated: 4:25 PM ET, Sat January 13, 2018

Officials from the New Jersey Department of Health are warning travelers that they may have been exposed to measles if they traveled through Newark Liberty International Airport on January 2, 2018.

On that date, an international traveler with a confirmed case of measles arrived in Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport and then transferred to a domestic terminal for a flight to Indianapolis, according to a health department press release.

The woman, a student at Indiana University, was traveling alone and may also have visited other areas of the airport.

Because measles is highly contagious, officials are warning anyone who spent time at the airport between 6:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on January 2 to be extra vigilant for symptoms, which include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. Additionally, say officials, symptoms could appear as late as January 23.

Passengers who do develop symptoms are recommended to call their healthcare provider before visiting a medical office or emergency department so that arrangements can be made to help contain the disease from spreading.

The Health Department is also encouraging travelers to be sure their vaccinations are up to date.

"Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective in preventing measles," said Dr. Christina Tan, an epidemiologist with the State of New Jersey. "We urge everyone to check to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects others around you who are too young to get the vaccine or can't receive it for medical reasons. If you're planning an international trip, the World Health Organization recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of measles vaccine before traveling."

Patients affected with measles are at risk of serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (swelling of the brain), and pregnant woman are further at risk of miscarriage, premature birth or a low-birth-weight baby. Measles can easily spread when someone coughs or sneezes, and is also transferrable through mucus or saliva.

Officials are also working to identify travelers who shared flights with the infected passenger. More information on what to do if you think you've been exposed to measles can be found on the New Jersey Health Department website.

Last year, Toronto Public Health officials sent out a similar alert after passengers may have been exposed to measles on board several flights in late March.

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