Potential Measles Exposure Reported at DC Airports

Health officials are coordinating an effort to identify travelers who might have been exposed.

January 18, 2024

Out of an abundance of caution, Virginia and Washington, D.C., health officials have recently warned travelers and area residents of potential measles exposure at two D.C. airports in early January.

According to a press release by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), a case of measles has been confirmed in a person who traveled through Northern Virginia while returning from international travel.

Measles is a highly contagious illness that can spread easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. The measles virus can remain infectious in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area.

Listed below are the dates, times, and locations of the potential exposure sites associated with this case of measles:

  • Dulles International Airport (IAD), specifically the international arrivals area of the main terminal between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3, 2024
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), specifically Terminal A between 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 4, 2024.

Health officials are coordinating an effort to identify people who might have been exposed, including contacting potentially exposed passengers on the specific flights.

Measles symptoms usually appear in two stages: In the first stage, most people have a fever of greater than 101 degrees, runny nose, watery red eyes, and a cough. These symptoms usually start a week to two weeks after being exposed. The second stage starts three to five days after symptoms start, when a rash begins to appear on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body. People with measles are contagious from four days before the rash appears through four days after its initial appearance.

According to the VDH, those who have never received a measles-containing vaccine (that is, either the measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccine or a measles-only vaccine that is available in other countries) could be at risk of developing measles if exposed. Anyone who was exposed and is at risk of developing measles should watch for symptoms until January 25, 2024. 

If you were in these areas at the listed dates and times and are at risk, the VDH suggests the following:

  • If you notice measles symptoms, immediately isolate yourself by staying home and away from others. Contact your healthcare provider right away. Call ahead before going to your healthcare provider’s office or the emergency room to notify them that you might have been exposed to measles and ask them to call the health department.
  • If you have an immunocompromising condition, please consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions or develop symptoms.

If you have received only one dose of a measles-containing vaccine, you are very likely to be protected and your risk of being infected with measles from any of these exposures is very low. However, to achieve complete immunity, the VDH recommends that you contact your healthcare provider about getting a second vaccine dose.

If measles exposure is suspected in your own facility, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that, generally, disinfectants registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are suitable for hepatitis B viruses and HIV will be effective against the measles virus as well. Commonly contaminated areas to focus on include countertops, tables, desks, cabinets, chairs, doorknobs, telephones, faucet handles, and equipment.

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