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Health Officials Issue Warning for Measles Exposure at FIVE U.S. Airports

Health Officials Issue Warning for Measles Exposure at FIVE U.S. Airports

First measles case in 20 years reported in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, the small island of Samoa has reported over 5000 cases in a devastating outbreak.

Public health officials are warning that five U.S. airports had travelers pass through with confirmed cases of measles this month, potentially exposing numerous other passengers to the highly infectious disease.

In Chicago, an individual with measles traveled through two terminals at O’Hare International Airport over the course of a week. On Dec. 17, the individual passed through O’Hare’s Terminal 1, and on Dec. 12, they passed through O’Hare’s Terminal 3, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The health department noted Chicago has one of the highest rates of measles, mumps and rubella vaccination in the nation.

In Virginia, a person with the measles visited Richmond International Airport on Dec. 17, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

One of the impacted cities is Austin, Texas, which has reported its first case of measles in 20 years.

“It appears that this individual contracted this disease while traveling in Europe in late November to early December,” Dr. Mark Escott, interim head of Austin Public Health, said during a news conference Monday.

Escott told reporters that the patient became ill Dec. 14, and developed a rash Dec. 17. During that time frame, the person visited several Austin-area restaurants and a Target store.

The other airports that have had reports of measles-infected passengers are Los Angeles’ LAX and Denver International.

Three unvaccinated children traveled to a country with an ongoing measles outbreak in early December and tested positive for measles when they returned.

The children visited parts of Denver International Airport on Dec. 11, including Concourse A, the baggage area and the pickup area, Colorado’s Tri-County Health Department reported. The children also traveled through Terminals 4 and 5 at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 11, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

With 1276 infected in 31 states so far this year, the Centers for Disease Control note that this is the highest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992.

However, as bad as the measles outbreak has been here, it has been brutal in Samoa.

On October 16, the ministry of health in the tiny Pacific Island nation sent notice of a measles outbreak within its borders. A month later, the Samoan government declared a state of emergency over the rapidly spreading virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By December 10, Samoa had counted 4,819 measles cases, including 70 measles-related deaths.

To put this into perspective, Samoa has a population of around 196,000. In the US, with more than 1,600 times the people, even in a very bad measles year, like 2019, the government recorded 1,200 measles cases.

In such a small country, almost everyone knows someone who has been affected, Sheldon Yett, UNICEF representative to the Pacific, told the BBC. “People are nervous, people are seeing the impact of this disease.” Most of the cases and deaths have occurred in small children, under the age of 5.

In response, Australia has been shipping child-size coffins to bury the dead. Schools across the island have had to shut down over the past couple of months, and public gatherings have been banned. The health system is strained trying to keep up with the onslaught of cases, and while there’s no tally on the cost of the outbreak, it’s sure to be huge.


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LibraryGryffon | December 24, 2019 at 9:04 am

Andrew Wakefield, may you burn in Hell.

Note well that, contrary to the feverish speculations often posted here by some people, none of these cases seem to involve either illegal immigrants or the countries most of them come from. Measles generally comes to the USA with legal visitors, and with Americans who’ve been abroad.

For instance, the several outbreaks in my own community and those related to it, which are the ones that have so far received the most press attention, have originated in the Ukraine, either directly or via Israel.

    gonzotx in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    Lol do you REALLY believe “they” would tell us the truth?

    Absolutely illegals are bringing diseases we havent seen in 50 years to our children… and they are dying!!!

      Milhouse in reply to gonzotx. | December 24, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      You are insane. We know where measles is coming from. And it’s not them. When you insist, contrary to all evidence, that it’s them, the only motive you could have is racism.

Wait, wait. Aren’t we supposed to respect people’s individual choices to not vax, to call themselves sex other than what god gave them, to kill babies even after they are born, …..

In the white neighborhood where I grew up, everyone got measles, mumps and chicken pox. Girls went to mumps parties as a normal part of growing up. I am not aware of any adverse reactions other than a week off of school feeling lousy.

Yet I understand that there are some bad reactions, although it seems that none of them were in my area. I remember hearing this jingle, over and over on TV:

I think some racial groups are much more at-risk than others. I guess Samoans may have to worry more about measles than whites. The Orthodox Jewish communities in NY were generally not worried about the measles infection less than a year ago, and they tend to be insular (not likely to infect outsiders), but state government swooped in unbidden to “help” anyway.

    Milhouse in reply to artichoke. | December 24, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    The Jewish community was very worried, especially since the outbreaks happened despite their having a vaccination rate higher than the US average. And we know where the (multiple) outbreaks came from: the Ukraine and Israel (which gets it from the Ukraine).

      artichoke in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2019 at 7:29 pm

      Which Jews? NPR (that far-right mouthpiece!) did interviews in a Haredi Orthodox community, I think in Brooklyn, and nobody seemed interested in getting their kids vaccinated. They were more afraid of the vaccinations than the measles. Their rabbis were telling them to get them vaccinated, and they were ignoring the rabbis.

        Milhouse in reply to artichoke. | December 24, 2019 at 7:56 pm

        NPR has an agenda. In this case to paint seriously religious people as weird ineducable anti-science aliens. So they interviewed the few anti-vaxx nutcases they could find (who exist everywhere) and presented them as if they were typical of the community.

        This does not square with the fact that the community has a vaccination rate of about 95-96%, which is higher than the US average. Hasidim, like Amish, and like fundamentalist Christians, are not anti-science, however much the left likes to think of them that way. That’s why the left always, always, focuses on the completely irrelevant question of evolution.

          artichoke in reply to Milhouse. | December 24, 2019 at 10:58 pm

          I am sure you’re just factually wrong on the Haredi communities. The story was sympathetic, no digs taken even subtle ones, and the conclusion agrees with other data I’ve seen.

          Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | December 25, 2019 at 12:38 am

          I know the Haredi world. Some parts of it better than others, but still. They go to doctors, and they vaccinate their children.

Without getting into a debate over merits of folks choices in the anti vaccination vs vaccination question, it would seem logically and legally that public health concerns outweigh personal liberty in some limited circumstances.

If one is not vaccinated against basic preventable disease such as measles much less some more virulent localized diseases and makes a choice to travel outside the U.S. then one should expect to be quarantined upon return. Likewise every traveler to the U.S. should be presenting their vaccination card along with a passport to be verified by the U.S. consulate prior to approval for entry or visa being granted.

This seems a low impact, common sense protocol.

    Milhouse in reply to CommoChief. | December 24, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Indeed. It used to be impossible to travel internationally without a smallpox jab, and that’s how smallpox was made extinct.

“Without getting into a debate over merits of folks choices in the anti vaccination vs vaccination question, it would seem logically and legally that public health concerns outweigh personal liberty in some limited circumstances.”
“public health concerns outweigh personal liberty”…the debate of individual vs group becomes more complicated when the concept of “herd immunity” come into play. Perhaps same ballpark; I was sympathetic to the push back against mandatory helmet laws until read that 75% of serious head injuries occurred to riders not wearing helmets and of those, 77% had no health insurance.

    randian in reply to SHV. | December 24, 2019 at 7:27 pm

    The difference being that a motorcyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet only kills themselves, while an unvaccinated carrier of disease can infect thousands.

      CommoChief in reply to randian. | December 25, 2019 at 12:25 pm


      The key point is that one must accept full responsibility for one’s own choices. If someone lives in an isolated area within an insular community and doesn’t choose to be vaccinated then OK. That series of life choices almost certainly won’t lead to infection of those outside their area. The impact of that individual decision is very limited upon larger society.

      However, if one doesn’t want to wear a helmet and other safety gear while riding a motorcycle that doesn’t limit the consequences to that rider. Should a vehicle throw a rock which strikes a rider in the head, sans helmet, the rider is more likely to lose control and crash into either public or private property. Medical costs for riders who choose to refrain from wearing safety gear should be borne by that individual. The helmetless rider can’t limit the impact to preclude damage to society at large.

      I am all for personal freedom and maximum individual liberty so long as the individuals bear the true costs of their choices and don’t make choices that impact others.

    ronk in reply to SHV. | December 26, 2019 at 9:23 am

    77% had no health insurance.” you realize that is bogus piece of data in the way you presented it. everyplace I’ve lived to register a car or a motorcycle you are required to have insurance, while this is not specifically health insurance it is supposed to cover injuries caused by an accident, and the health insurance might not even cover injuries caused by the accident even if you have it.