Hundreds of Passengers at Chicago O’Hare Airport May Have Been Exposed to Measles

CHICAGO, USA - MARCH 23 : O'Hare International Airport is seen on March 23, 2017 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A sick passenger arriving on an international flight last Wednesday may have exposed hundreds of travelers at Chicago O’Hare Airport to measles.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) told CBS Chicago that the passenger, who was contagious at the time, arrived at O’Hare Airport’s Terminal 5 and departed from Terminal 1 on a domestic flight.

Public health officials say all passengers who traveled through O’Hare between 6:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on January 10 have been exposed. Those most at risk for catching the disease are those who have not been vaccinated, officials say.

Measles is a very contagious virus, and it can hang around in the air for up to an hour or two after a person has left,” University of Chicago Medicine’s Dr. Allison Bartlett told CBS News. “Certainly the people who were on the plane with this individual are at risk of getting the infection, but so are the other people who may have shared the same space with this person during this six-hour period that they were at O’Hare.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms can take seven to 14 days to develop, meaning many of the passengers exposed to the virus may not show symptoms until the end of the month.

Symptoms include a rash, high fever, runny nose, conjunctivitis, and cough. In rare cases, those with the disease can suffer life-threatening complications.

“Two doses of measles vaccine are about 97 percent effective in preventing measles,” said IDPH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Layden. “We urge everyone to make sure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and all other age-appropriate immunizations.”

It is unclear which country the sick passenger came from, but Europe is experiencing “large outbreaks” of the measles virus.

Local health departments are trying to track down Illinois residents who may have been exposed to the disease on the sick passenger’s flight.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.