Seattle health officials warn of measles case at Seattle International Airport

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The Public Health – Seattle & King County issued an alert after they were notified that an adult with a confirmed case of infectious measles traveled through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after their travels in Europe.

The confirmed infection came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert to public health officials warning that the number of U.S. measles cases this year has already matched the entirety of 2023. 

The Seattle & King County alert said that the infectious adult traveled through the international airport on May 10 and 11 and that the person’s measle vaccination status was unclear.

Health officials said the individual resided in Arizona and likely picked up the infectious disease while in Europe. The agency did not specify which country or countries the individual traveled.

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an artist's rendering of a measles rash

Measles concept as a deadly outbreak immunize, disease and viral illness as a contagious chickenpox or a skin rash in a 3D illustration style.  (iStock)

Health officials said the individual used the S Concourse (Gate S1) on May 10 between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. They went through customs to the international arrivals facility baggage claim (Carousel 19).

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On May 11, between approximately 7:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., the individual was at the A Concourse (Gate A8).

Measles-Explainer

Measles outbreaks in the U.S. and abroad are raising health experts’ concern about the preventable, once-common childhood virus. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Seattle health officials said that if individuals believe they were exposed at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, they should:

  • Find out if you have been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously. Make sure you are up-to-date with the recommended number of measles (MMR) vaccinations.
  • Call a healthcare provider promptly if you develop an illness with fever or with an unexplained rash. To avoid possibly spreading measles to others, do not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first to tell them you want to be checked for measles after an exposure.
  • Limit contact with others, especially those without known immunity.

If you were at the locations at the times listed above and are not immune to measles, the most likely time you would become sick would be between May 17, 2024, to June 1, 2024. People who are immuno-compromised may take longer to experience symptoms.

measles outbreak skin

Photo illustration shows skin of a patient afflicted with measles. (iStock)

The health scare at the international airport came after a CDC alert to public health officials said the number of U.S. measles cases this year has already matched the entirety of 2023.  

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“From January 1 to March 14, 2024, CDC has been notified of 58 confirmed U.S. cases of measles across 17 jurisdictions, including seven outbreaks in seven jurisdictions compared to 58 total cases and four outbreaks reported the entire year in 2023,” it said in the release. 

“Among the 58 cases reported in 2024, 54 (93%) were linked to international travel,” the CDC continued, adding that, “Many countries, including travel destinations such as Austria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United Kingdom, are experiencing measles outbreaks.” 

measles, mumps and rubella vaccine

A measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, California. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

The CDC describes measles as a “highly contagious viral illness” that “can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and death, especially in unvaccinated persons.” 

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“To prevent measles infection and reduce the risk of community transmission from importation, all U.S. residents traveling internationally, regardless of destination, should be current on their MMR vaccinations,” it said in the alert. “Healthcare providers should ensure children are current on routine immunizations, including MMR.”