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News / Health / Health Wire

Traveler carries measles through LAX as cases rise around the U.S.

By Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times
Published: May 29, 2024, 8:27am

LOS ANGELES — A traveler carrying measles flew from Munich, Germany, through Los Angeles on the way to Fresno Yosemite International Airport this month, exposing thousands of California travelers to the highly infectious disease, health officials have confirmed.

Officials from the L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed the case late Monday, bringing the total number of measles cases documented in California to nine for the year.

The sick traveler arrived at Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal around 3 p.m. May 19 on a Lufthansa flight, then boarded a connecting flight to Fresno Yosemite around 8 that night, health officials from Los Angeles and Fresno confirmed.

So far, no associated infections have been reported.

It’s not the first time this year that someone traveling in California has toted the virus into Los Angeles.

In February, a local came home on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul, stopping for dinner at a Northridge Chick-fil-A.

In late March and early April, a sick visitor dined on doughnuts and fried chicken in the Simpsons area at Universal Studios, browsed for souvenirs at the Santa Monica Pier, ate at a string of fast-casual chain restaurants across the city and repeatedly hit the gym at Sheraton Gateway Hotel near LAX before they were identified by health officials.

Measles is about six times more infectious than COVID-19 and is frequently deadly in countries where it is endemic. In 2022, about 130,000 people are believed to have died from the virus, mostly children.

“Measles is spread by air and by direct contact even before you know you have it and can lead to severe disease,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County health officer. “Measles is highly contagious for those who are not immune to it. Initially causing fever, cough, red, watery eyes and followed by a rash, it can result in serious complications for young children and vulnerable adults.”

The most recent LAX infection is one of more than 140 recorded so far this year across the United States — more than double the total reported in all of last year.

More than half of those cases required hospitalization, officials said. Most were among people who had not been inoculated.

Most Americans are vaccinated against measles as toddlers, though the rate among California children has dipped in recent years, raising fears that the virus could spread locally.

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