Health officials track measles exposure at three U.S. airports

BOSTON Sat Feb 26, 2011 1:43pm EST

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BOSTON (Reuters) - State health officials are trying to track down travelers who may have been exposed to measles after a passenger who was contagious passed through three major U.S. airports.

A woman with a confirmed case of measles traveled from the United Kingdom through Washington Dulles International Airport, Denver International Airport and on to Albuquerque International Airport last week, said Tom Skinner, spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC has provided state health officials with information about passengers on those flights to begin tracing who may have had contact and if immunizations are current, said Skinner.

On Friday, Colorado health officials issued a warning to travelers and workers at Denver International Airport of possible exposure to the passenger who is from New Mexico and was at the airport for several hours on Tuesday night.

Officials believe the diagnosed case of measles was contracted overseas, said Skinner.

States, with assistance from the CDC, will determine who is at risk and typically look at other passengers seated near the confirmed case, he said.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus spread person to person that develops seven to 18 days after exposure. It looks and feels like a cold initially but later a rash develops on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

People with measles are contagious four days before and four days after the tell-tale rash appears.

The latest containment and outreach efforts come as health officials in Boston are tracking three people suspected of crossing paths with a 24 year-old-woman whose diagnosis was confirmed earlier this month.

Some 180 people have been vaccinated at two free clinics held in the Boston office building where the woman had come to work while contagious.

Health officials in Boston also believe the confirmed case acquired the disease overseas.

Measles is a leading cause of death among children in the developing world, but is seldom seen in the United States where vaccination is required for all school children.

The most recent large outbreak of measles in the United States was in 2008, where more than 130 cases were reported in 15 states, according to the CDC.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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