LAX travelers may have been exposed to measles at airport, Los Angeles officials warn

A Southern California resident who traveled through Los Angeles International Airport this month may have exposed others to the measles virus, health officials said on Wednesday in confirming a new case of the highly contagious virus.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the person “recently traveled and became ill with measles shortly after returning to Los Angeles County.”

Exposure to the measles-infected traveler was possible at LAX’s Terminal 5 from 11 p.m. Sept. 20 to 1:30 a.m. Sept. 21. Exposure was also possible from 11:20 p.m. Sept. 20 to 1:50 a.m. Sept. 21 at the Century Airport Shuttle from LAX to 5701 West Century Boulevard in Los Angeles, according to public health officials.

“For those who are not protected, measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that initially causes fever, cough, red, watery eyes, and, finally, a rash,” Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County Health Officer, said in a statement.

Experts warned that anyone who was at those locations at the time could be at risk for developing the virus within three weeks of exposure.

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“Measles is spread by air and by direct contact,” Davis said. “The MMR immunization is a very effective measure to protect yourself and to prevent the unintentional spread of this potentially serious infection to others.”

Los Angeles health officials said there have been 17 resident cases of the virus so far in the county this year, as well as 11 cases in non-residents who traveled through the county.

Most of those infected this year were either not immunized or didn’t know if they had been immunized against the virus, health officials said.

According to county health officials, measles is “considered among the most contagious viruses in the world. About 90% of people who have never been immunized against measles become ill 7-21 days after exposure. Infected people can infect those around them before they have symptoms and know they are infected.”

A study earlier this year found that Los Angeles County is one of three counties across the United States that is most at risk for a measles outbreak, in large part due to its large airport that hosts travelers from around the globe.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.