Warning Issued in the US as Deadly Measles Virus Spreads Through Airports
Government health official warn parents to get children vaccinated
Government health officials have warned parents they must get their children vaccinated immediately after a deadly strain of the virus broke out in the United States after infected passengers traveled through three airports.
Health officials in Michigan and New Jersey are warning that the highly contagious infectious disease has spread rapidly due to travelers being exposed to a number of passengers on international flights with confirmed cases of measles.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced on Wednesday that it had confirmed the state’s first case of measles this year after a traveler from Washtenaw County fell critically ill.
The individual allegedly passed through the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on March 6 after returning from traveling abroad.
The patient, who hasn't been identified but was confirmed as contagious at the time of his return, is currently recovering after being hospitalized.
Health officials are warning that anyone who may have come into contact with anyone who was in or around the customs or baggage claim in the airport’s north terminal between 2 and 5 p.m. that day should seek medical attention immediately.
Parents have been warned to have children vaccinated as a precaution as soon as possible, and monitor them closely for signs they are developing symptoms of the respiratory disease.
“This case underscores the importance of following vaccine recommendations and being up-to-date on vaccines,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS Chief Medical Executive.
“Immunizations are the best way to protect our families and communities from the harmful, sometimes deadly consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.
"If you have questions about a child’s vaccination status or your own vaccination history, talk to your doctor right away to ensure your family has optimal protection.”
PC reports: Health officials in New Jersey are also warning travelers to be on alert after an international traveler with a confirmed case of measles arrived in Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport from Brussels and then departed to Memphis International Airport on Monday.
The infected individual, a child, is said to have been highly contagious at the time of travel.
Those who were at Newark Liberty International Airport between 12:45 and 9 p.m. may have been exposed to the virus.
The highly contagious virus has a 10 to 12 day incubation period and usually starts with symptoms of a high fever, red eyes, cough, runny nose, and sensitivity to light.
It is followed by a red, raised body rash starting on the head and face, progressing to the rest of the body.
Measles outbreak in Europe
Meanwhile, in Europe, a staggering 400% rise in confirmed cases of Measles has been reported.
Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO), say the latest epidemic is down to not enough people being vaccinated with the MMR vaccine.
According to WHO, a decline in immunizations, interruptions in vaccine supply and poor monitoring has contributed to the crisis.
A total of 21,315 cases have been reported on the continent and the new strain of the infection has caused 35 deaths so far.
Sky News reports: It came after a record low of 5,273 measles cases the previous year.
WHO said a decline in immunizations, interruptions in vaccine supply, low rates of vaccination among marginalized groups and poor monitoring had contributed to the crisis.
Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, described it as "a tragedy we cannot accept."
Symptoms of measles include cold-like symptoms, sore red eyes, a high temperature and a blotchy rash. Although it usually clears in 7-10 days, complications of the illness can be fatal.
Last September, it was announced that measles had been officially eradicated in the UK - meaning it had not freely circulated for three years - thanks to widespread immunization with the MMR vaccine.
But there was a slight surge in cases this winter, and the WHO recorded a total of 282 last year.
According to Public Health England, the outbreak is linked to the rise in Europe and 36 cases were reported in 2018.
Dr. Mary Ramsey, head of immunization at PHE, said those who had not been vaccinated and had recently traveled to Romania, Italy or Germany were at risk.
"This serves as an important reminder for parents to take up the offer of MMR vaccination for their children," she said.
Some 15 European countries experienced serious outbreaks of measles last year, but the worst affected were Romania, with 5,562 cases, Italy with 5,006 and Ukraine with 4,767.
Other states to be seriously affected were Greece with 967 cases, Germany with 927, and Belgium with 369.
"Every new person affected by measles in Europe reminds us that unvaccinated children and adults, regardless of where they live, remain at risk of catching the disease and spreading it to others who may not be able to get vaccinated," Dr. Jakab said.
Around 95% of cases of measles happen in low-income countries, and globally the fatality rate of measles is one in five.
That's much more than Europe's current outbreak, which is less than 0.2%.
Most deaths from measles result from severe complications such as diarrhea, dehydration, brain inflammation or respiratory infections, according to Medicins Sans Frontiers.
"Elimination of both measles and rubella is a priority goal that all European countries have firmly committed to, and a cornerstone for achieving the health-related Sustainable Development Goals," the WHO's Dr. Jakab said.
"This short-term setback cannot deter us from our commitment to be the generation that frees our children from these diseases once and for all."