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Originally published January 25, 2013 at 7:20 PM | Page modified January 25, 2013 at 9:30 PM

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Measles risk possible from Jan. 18 air traveler

Many travelers at Sea-Tac Airport last week may have been exposed to measles from a contagious traveler.

Seattle Times health reporter

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A child with an active case of measles may have exposed other travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 18 while waiting for a connecting flight.

Mainly spread through the air, measles is a highly contagious and potentially severe disease, public-health officials said Friday.

Although most people have immunity to measles through vaccination, those who were in certain areas of the airport that day and who are not immune or are unsure of their status should call a health-care provider quickly if they develop an illness with fever or an unexplained rash before Feb. 9. That’s the date by which symptoms would be expected to appear.

The child, who was traveling from Amsterdam to Portland, spent time in the following areas between 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.:

• S Gate

• South Train

• Main Terminal South Station

• Main Terminal North Station

• North Train

• N Gate

Perry Cooper, spokesman for the airport, said about 85,000 people go through the airport, on average, every day. Jan. 18 was a relatively slow day, with perhaps 75,000 to 80,000 people traveling.

Cooper said airport emergency responders are working with local public-health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is contacting travelers who may have been exposed on flights.

The child was diagnosed in Salem, Ore., and may have exposed residents there in several stores and at a health clinic, said Dr. Karen Landers, Marion County health officer in Salem.

While the illness is contagious, the risk of catching measles in large indoor or outdoor spaces is low, Landers said. Situations similar to this have rarely resulted in new local measles cases, primarily because most people have immunity.

People are considered immune if they have medical evidence of past disease, have received two doses of the MMR vaccine given at least one month apart, or were born before Jan. 1, 1957. Anyone born before that date likely is immune from having had the disease.

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a red rash that begins at the head and spreads to the rest of the body.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com

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