Newark Airport Reports Potential Measles Exposure, Again

Measles is a vaccine-preventable acute viral respiratory disease

newark airport

An international traveler who arrived in Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport on December 24, 2018, has been confirmed with the measles virus. 

This individual arrived on a flight from Brussels, Belgium, was infectious on that day and may have traveled to other areas of the Newark International Airport, which is located in central New Jersey (NJ).   

This passenger may have contracted the measles virus from any of the 28 European countries currently reporting measles outbreaks during 2018. 

The NJ Health Commissioner said in a press release ‘If you were in the airport on December 24th, between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. EST, you may have been exposed to measles. 

‘Additionally, if you were infected with this infectious disease, you could develop symptoms as late as January 14, 2019.’ 

Previously, Newark Airport reported measles exposures on:

Measles is an acute, viral respiratory disease that can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs), and even death. It is caused by a highly-contagious virus that is spread through the air by breathing, coughing, or sneezing says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   

“This confirmed case and exposure are unrelated to the ongoing measles outbreak in Ocean County, which includes 30 Ocean County cases and 3 Passaic County cases,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.    

"I urge all NJ residents across the state to get vaccinated to protect their health.” 

Additionally, the New York metro area has been confronted with measles outbreaks in various communities during 2018. 

Anyone who suspects an exposure is urged to call a healthcare provider before going to a medical office or emergency department. Special arrangements can be made for evaluation while also protecting other patients and medical staff from possible infection, said this press release. 

Dr. Christina Tan, NJ epidemiologist said “We urge everyone to check to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations. 

“Getting vaccinated not only protects you, but it also protects others around you who are too young to get the vaccine or can’t receive it for medical reasons.” 

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“If you’re planning an international trip, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults or adolescents unsure of their immune status get a dose of measles vaccine before traveling,” Dr. Tan added. 

This WHO recommendation is related to several measles outbreaks in the USA related to international travelers.

As of December 1, 2018, 292 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia reports the CDC. 

With a large percent of these cases related to international travel.  

To better understand the current situation, 3 recent studies reviewed why international travelers who sought pre-travel counseling refused the recommended preventive vaccines. 

  1. A study of 40,810 adult travelers found (16%) were eligible for MMR vaccine at the time of pretravel consultation. Of the MMR-eligible, (53%) were not vaccinated at the visit; of these, (48%) were not vaccinated because of traveler refusal, and (28%) because of provider decision, and (24%) because of health systems barriers. 
  2. A second study of 24,478 international travelers, found (97%) were eligible for at least one vaccine prior to departure, but (25%) refused one or more recommended vaccine(s). These travelers were most frequently eligible for typhoid (20,092), hepatitis A (12,990) and influenza vaccines (10,539). The most common reason for declining vaccination was that the traveler was not concerned about the illness. 
  3. A third study from 2001 to 2016, reported 553 imported measles cases. The median age of imported case-patients was 18 years, (87%) were unvaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status, and U.S. residents accounted for (62%) of imported measles cases. Overall, 62 percent of all imported measles case-patients reported travel to countries in the Western Pacific and European Regions of the World Health Organization.

In summary, these studies indicate that approximately 20 percent of international travelers met criteria for a measles vaccination, but fewer than 50 percent of these travelers were vaccinated. 

The CDC says that an increase in measles immunization prior to travel could reduce the likelihood of importation and transmission of measles virus in the USA. 

In the USA, two approved measles vaccines are available, MMR-II and ProQuad

International travelers can easily request a vaccine appointment with a pharmacy at Vax-Before-Travel.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information.

MMR vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.