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The Associated Press reports that a passenger flying from the United Kingdom to the U.S. this weekend may have exposed travelers to measles. "Authorities said Saturday that a New Mexico woman later confirmed to have measles arrived [from London] at Washington Dulles International Airport late in the afternoon of Feb. 20. Two days later, the measles-infected traveler departed from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport near Baltimore on an evening flight to Denver, Colorado, and then on to Albuquerque, New Mexico."
Most Americans are immunized against measles, but health officials worry that unimmunized individuals may have been exposed. Travelers with weakened immune systems are also at risk. Travelers who may have been exposed should contact their health care provider immediately.
We don't often think of measles as being a serious illness because vaccinations are so common here. But vaccinations are common precisely because the disease is so serious: It's a highly communicable virus marked by a rash that can last up to a week, and is often accompanied by significant respiratory issues, especially among adults.
That said, a spokesman from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told me that measles exposure does happen from time to time: "Usually, the exposure involves someone arriving in the U.S. from overseas. Depending on the stage of the illness and the number of people who may have come in direct contact with the patient, there is a possibility of spreading measles." The CDC also reiterated that airplanes are no worse at incubating germs than crowded supermarkets or sporting events.
For more information on staying healthy while in the air, check out the CDC's Traveler's Health page.
Readers, what tips do you have for staying healthy while traveling?