Measles Rears Its Ugly Head Once Again at Newark International Airport

The New Jersey Department of Health has issued a public health alert warning of another potential measles exposure at Newark International Airport.

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH) has issued yet another public health alert warning of potential measles exposure at Newark International Airport.

The highly contagious disease was confirmed in an international traveler who arrived in Terminal B from Brussels and then departed for Memphis, Tennessee from Terminal C on March 12, 2018.

The NJ DOH warns that the traveler, a young child, may have traveled to other areas of the airport, and, as such, anyone who was traveling at the airport between 12:45 PM and 9:00 PM on March 12 may have potentially been exposed to the disease.

“Since measles is still common in many countries, travelers with continue to bring this disease into the United States,” Christina Tan, MD, MPH, state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner of the division of Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health at the NJ DOH told Contagion ®.

One of the most contagious of all infectious diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9 in 10 susceptible individuals with close contact to an infected individual will develop the disease.

The best form of protection is to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

“Almost everyone who has not had the MMR shot will get measles if they are exposed to the measles virus,” Dr. Tan warned. “The measles vaccine is very effective. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.”

However, despite this high efficacy rate, individuals are still not receiving their recommended vaccinations. Sometimes this is due to vaccine hesitancy, a fear of the risk side effects of vaccination and the safety of vaccine components. Furthermore, some anti-vaxxers are still clinging to a paper that was published in 1998 which linked the MMR vaccine to autism (a paper which has been debunked and withdrawn).

Regardless of the reason, lack of vaccination is equitable to a lack of protection against the disease, which results in more infections, and even outbreaks, as is being seen right now in Europe. Due to declining vaccination rates, the continent has seen a 4-fold increase in measles infections.

Therefore, Dr. Tan and other health officials are stressing the need for individuals to ensure that they are up-to-date on MMR vaccine vaccinations, especially if they plan on traveling internationally.

If an individual presents with febrile rash illness and clinically compatible measles symptoms—cough, coryza, conjunctivitis—health care providers should consider a measles diagnosis and report suspected measles cases to their local health care providers within 24 hours.

Anyone who came in contact with the traveler from Brussels could develop symptoms as late as April 2 if they are infected, the public health alert reads.

New Jersey residents who were flying with the infected individual, and thus, run the risk of exposure, will be notified by their local health department, according to the NJ DOH.