Measles patient traveled through Detroit Metro on way home to Washtenaw County

ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) - We have a health alert you’ll want to know about if you have been to Detroit Metro Airport.  A traveler who flew into the airport is now being treated for measles, a highly contagious disease. 

While measles is highly contagious, the virus can only survive in the air and on surfaces for a limited amount of time.  As a result, there is likely a limited area and time  during which someone could have been exposed. If it happened, health officials say, it likely would have been at the North Terminal in the baggage or customs areas. 

It would have happened on Tuesday, March 6th. A  person traveling home to Washtenaw County from an overseas trip landed around two in the afternoon. The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services is asking people who were in those areas between the hours of 2 and 5 p.m. to be aware if they start to feel ill. 

The airport says it sent notice to employees about the possible exposure and consulted with health officials on what to do. 

“According to the MDHHS, the virus is airborne and can only survive two hours in the air. So, we’re told our normal sanitization procedures are sufficient. Each day, our cleaning staff follows a process to sanitize the terminal, which is similar to what occurs in a hospital,” said Erica Donerson, of the Wayne County Airport Authority.

The CDC has worked to make sure those on the plane that passenger was on are notified. 

“Anyone who may have come in contact and feels they are sick, they should contact their health care provider immediately,” said Jessie Kimbrough Marshall, MD MPH, Washtenaw County Health Director. 

Symptoms include cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, and a red blotchy skin rash. It can take 10 to 12 days for symptoms to show up after exposure.

Dr. Kimbrough Marshall says while measles was declared eradicated in the United states in 2000, meaning that there were at the time no cases originating in the U.S,  in many countries it remains common. 

When people travel they can bring it back and spread it to others. 

Last year doctors diagnosed 118 people  with measles here in the U.S, two of them in Michigan. 

“Iit is imperative that anyone hearing me know that the best way to protect yourself is to get a vaccine. There is just no getting around that,” said Kimbrough Marshall. 

The CDC says globally measles takes about 146 thousand lives every year.  The health department says the vaccine is a highly effective and safe way to protect yourself. 

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