Unvaccinated woman with confirmed case of measles was at SEA Airport, local hospital

Seattle and King County public health officials are warning about possible measles exposure after an unvaccinated woman was in two public places before she was diagnosed.

Health officials say the woman was in the baggage claim area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday, Jan. 18 between 12:26 and 3:00 p.m.

On Friday, Jan. 20, she was at the Emergency Room at Swedish First Hill in Seattle from 2:00 p.m. to about 5:00 pm.

Officials say anyone who was at those places during those times could have been exposed to the highly contagious virus as it remains in the air for up to two hours after someone with measles leaves the area.

If you were exposed, they say you could get sick between Jan. 25 and Feb. 10.

The news comes on the heels of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows immunization rates are falling for school-aged children. The 2021-22 school year saw rates drop to 93% – two percentage points below the recommended herd immunity level.

King County, where the exposures took place, has a kindergarten measles immunization rate of 94% according to Seattle-King County Public Health.

Measles is a highly contagious disease. The virus can remain in the air up to two hours after someone infected leaves the area.

"If you don't have immunity, you can get it just by being in a room where a person with measles has been," said Dr. Eric Chow, Communicable Disease Chief for Public Health. "Fortunately, the measles vaccine is very effective. Two doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides about 97% protection against getting infected by measles and that protection lasts a lifetime."

If you believe it's possible that you've come into contact with the individual who was sick, and develop an illness with fever or unexplained rash you shouldn't rush to the doctor. Instead, Public Health suggests calling a healthcare provider immediately and letting them know you need to be evaluated – this is to avoid possibly spreading measles to others.

Measles symptoms begins seven to 21 days after exposure and are contagious before a rash first appears, and several days after. Measles can lead to ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia and brain inflammation – complications can occur in healthy people, especially children, adults over 20, pregnant people and those with weakened immune systems.

To learn more about measles, vaccines, and the latest case you can visit Seattle-King County Public Health's website.