Health Officials Issue Warning on Measles Exposure at Philadelphia International Airport

Health authorities warned this week that a traveler going through the Philadelphia Airport may have exposed others to the measles in recent days.
Health Officials Issue Warning on Measles Exposure at Philadelphia International Airport
Travelers check themselves in at a kiosk at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sept. 2, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Health authorities warned that a traveler going through the Philadelphia International Airport may have exposed others to the measles virus late last week.

The potential measles exposure occurred on Friday, May 31, 2024, from 2:50 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time in the Federal Inspection Area inside the airport’s Terminal A West, said the Philadelphia Health Department.

“We believe there is no threat to the general public associated with this case of measles,” Dr. Landrus Burress, the head of the city’s Division of Disease Control, said in a news release issued on Monday. “We encourage people who were possibly exposed to take action if they are not protected against measles.

“Many countries, including travel destinations, are experiencing measles outbreaks, so the potential for travel-related measles cases and subsequent outbreaks in the United States has increased,” he continued, adding that people should “follow the CDC’s immunization schedule and get their children fully vaccinated” and for people traveling outside the United States to also get the shots if need be.

Information about whether the individual was traveling to or from another country, if they are an employee, and more details were not provided. Federal Inspection Areas are places inside airports that include U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel who inspect individuals or luggage as they enter the United States from other countries.

The agency, however, said that the potential exposure isn’t related to a measles outbreak that was reported in May in Philadelphia.
Several days ago, in a separate alert, officials in Washington state warned that a case of measles was confirmed in an Arizona resident who had traveled through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in recent days. That individual passed through the airport on May 10 and May 11 while he was infected with the virus, said authorities in King County.

Measles Symptoms

Authorities say measles, a highly infectious virus, generally shows up in two stages. In the first, most people develop a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, runny nose, watery red eyes, or cough. These symptoms generally start seven to 14 days after being exposed.
Officials say the second stage of measles starts about two to three days after the initial symptoms. Some people develop what is known as Koplik spots—tiny white spots—inside the mouth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Three to five days after the first symptoms begin, the telltale measles rash starts to appear on the patient’s face near the hairline area before it spreads to the rest of the body, spreading downward.

“Small raised bumps may also appear on top of the flat red spots,” and the “spots may become joined together as they spread from the head to the rest of the body,” the CDC says on its website. “When the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Health Alert

Earlier this year, the CDC sent out a “health alert” due to what it called an increase in global and U.S. measles cases, saying that health providers should “ensure” that international travelers are vaccinated.

At the time, of the cases reported across the United States in 2024, about 93 percent were connected “to international travel,” the CDC said in a statement. It noted that most of the cases were reported in children aged 12 months and older who have not received a measles vaccine.

“To prevent measles infection and reduce the risk of community transmission from importation, all U.S. residents traveling internationally, regardless of destination, should be current on their MMR vaccinations,” the CDC said, referring to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine that is commonly administered across the world.

“Many countries, including travel destinations such as Austria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United Kingdom, are experiencing measles outbreaks,” the agency also warned.

But due to “currently high population immunity against measles in most U.S. communities, the risk of widescale spread is low,” the health alert said. “However, pockets of low coverage leave some communities at higher risk for outbreaks.”

A thin-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals the ultrastructural appearance of a single virus particle, or “virion,” of the measles virus. (CDC via Getty Images)
A thin-section transmission electron micrograph (TEM) reveals the ultrastructural appearance of a single virus particle, or “virion,” of the measles virus. (CDC via Getty Images)

The agency then advised parents who plan to travel outside the United States with their children to speak with a health care provider to make sure they receive the MMR vaccine at least two weeks prior.

Several days ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, sent out a joint statement that measles is on the rise across the European region, with some 56,634 cases and four deaths being officially reported for the first three months of this year.

“High rates of hospitalization and long-lasting weakening of children’s immune systems make children more vulnerable to other infectious diseases. More than half of those who contracted measles in the Region in 2023 were hospitalized, demonstrating the severe burden on individuals, families and health-care systems,” the statement said.

Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: