Airplane travelers passing through Chicago O’Hare airport last Wednesday may have been exposed to measles. According to The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), an international flight passenger was sick when they arrived in the US, and may have exposed hundreds of travelers to measles.
IDPH reports that the passenger was contagious when they arrived at O’Hare Airport’s Terminal 5 , then departed from Terminal 1 on a domestic flight, leaving all passengers who traveled through O’Hare between 6:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on January 10 potentially exposed.
CBS Chicago reports: Those most at risk for catching the disease are those who have not been vaccinated, officials say.
“Measles is a very contagious virus, and it can hang around in the air for up to an hour or two after a person has left,” University of Chicago Medicine’s Dr. Allison Bartlett told CBS News. “Certainly the people who were on the plane with this individual are at risk of getting the infection, but so are the other people who may have shared the same space with this person during this six-hour period that they were at O’Hare.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms can take seven to 14 days to develop, meaning many of the passengers exposed to the virus may not show symptoms until the end of the month.
Symptoms include a rash, high fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and cough. In rare cases, those with the disease can suffer life-threatening complications.
The Chicago report follows an earlier report from over the weekend, in which the New Jersey Department of Health warned passengers who had been through Newark Airport that they may have been exposed to measles after an international traveler passed through the airport on January 2.
The best way to minimize the risk of contracting measles is through receiving vaccinations, according to experts who say two doses of measles vaccine are approximately 97 percent effective in preventing measles.
It is not clear at this time which country the sick passenger came from, however Europe is currently experiencing “large outbreaks” of the measles virus.