After confirming two cases of measles this week at separate airports, Michigan and New Jersey state health officials have issued a health warning

By Maria Pasquini
March 15, 2018 05:17 PM
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After confirming two separate cases of measles this week, Michigan and New Jersey state health officials have issued a warning for individuals who may have come into contact with the virus during their airport travels.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement confirming an individual — who had been traveling abroad — “was contagious upon returning to Michigan” at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Mar. 6.

New Jersey’s Department of Health issued a similar warning on the same day about “a young child” who had arrived in Newark Liberty International Airport from Brussels and departed for Memphis on Mar. 12 “with a confirmed case of measles.”

United States: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
Credit: Andia/UIG/Getty

New Jersey’s Department of Health has warned that anyone who visited the airport “between 12:45 p.m and 9:00 p.m.” on Mar. 12 may develop symptoms of the disease “as late as April 2.”

“Measles symptoms include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes,” Shereef Elnahal, acting commissioner, explained in the press release.

Dr. Jennifer Lighter Fisher, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at NYU Langone Medical Center, previously explained to PEOPLE that measles is “most contagious through airborne transmission.”

“Measles is a virus that is transmitted in the air when you’re next to someone that has the measles virus and is coughing or sneezing,” she continued, adding that “the disease can also live on surfaces for about two hours.”

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Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services has also advised “anyone who was in customs or baggage claim in [Detroit Metropolitan Airport’s] north terminal between 2 and 5 p.m.” on Mar. 6 to contact their doctor if they suspect they have developed symptoms of the virus.

They also went on to share that the sick individual “was hospitalized, and is currently recovering.”

In 2000, measles was declared eradicated in the United States because it wasn’t spreading routinely like colds or flu. Only a few dozen measles cases were diagnosed each year for many years – mostly by travelers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent years, however, the disease has made a comeback.

Explaining how the disease works, Dr. Fisher previously told PEOPLE that there is currently no “treatment or cure for measles.”

“So if someone gets it, it’s not like they can take a medicine that will treat it,” she explained, adding that “the disease usually lasts one to two weeks and is contagious four days before the rash and about four days after the rash.”

Asked how people can work towards preventing the spread of the disease, Dr. Fisher said the best solution was vaccination.

“People should get vaccinated for these preventable illnesses. For those who don’t get vaccinated, they are putting the most vulnerable people at risk in the population,” she said.

“For example, very young children cannot get vaccinated and so those who choose to not get vaccinated are putting other people at risk,” she added. ‘It’s very important that a population as a whole gets vaccinated to protect the most vulnerable.”