Health department issues warning over potential measles exposure at DIA

Three children were confirmed sick. They passed through the airport on Dec. 11.
3 min. read
TSA’s security check at Denver International Airport on a very snowy day, Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Tri-County Health Department is advising that anyone who passed through Denver International Airport on the afternoon of Dec. 11 monitor themselves for measles symptoms after confirming three unvaccinated kids who visited Colorado tested positive for the disease.

DIA spokesperson Emily Williams said Monday there is no ongoing risk at the airport. But health officials want people who were at the airport the same day the children were there to monitor themselves for measles symptoms.

A press release from the health department on Monday provided a list of places where the children may have exposed others at the airport. People who on Dec. 11 passed through Concourse A, the train between terminals, the west baggage claim and the west level 4 passenger pick up areas from 1:15 to 5:45 p.m. are believed to be at risk for exposure.

People who traveled on the airplane with the children are believed to be at risk. The release said they are being contacted directly by public health officials.

The three children are currently hospitalized at Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora. Anyone at the Children's Hospital Colorado - Anschutz Campus Emergency Department in Aurora between 1 and 7:30 p.m. that day is believed to be at risk.

Dr. Bernadette Albanese, a disease control doctor at Tri-County Health, said they're not releasing where the children traveled from, other than that it was international. The children have been placed in isolation to prevent further spread of the virus.

Albanese also said Colorado has the lowest rate in the country for kindergarten students who are vaccinated for measles. It means there are "quite a few people who are not protected against measles," which increases the potential for an outbreak. Pregnant women, infants under 12 months and people with a weakened immune system are at high risk.

"If people think measles is a mild disease, think again," Albanese said. "It is not a mild disease. It is a significant disease."

According to the Tri-County Health Department, which oversees Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas County, the children were visiting Colorado.

Measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, red eyes and coughing. They can begin seven to 21 days after exposure, according to Monday's release. The release said red blotchy rashes can start appearing on the face and spread to the rest of the body two to four days after the first symptoms. An infected person is contagious for four days before and four days after the rash appears, according to the release.

The disease is a "system infection," Albanese said. She added that people at high risk for infection can develop serious complications, like pneumonia or a brain infection. She said the disease can be fatal.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working with the Tri-County Health Department, Children's Colorado and Denver Public Health to investigate the measles exposure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been notified of the three cases.

Tammy Vigil, a spokesperson for Denver's Department of Public Health & Environment, said they are partnering with other agencies for response. But Tri-County Health is the lead agency because the patients had been staying in Adams County; it's why DDPHE did not issue a statement or release on the confirmed cases.

On Monday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a similar release about three confirmed measles cases from people who traveled through the airport on Dec. 11. The infected persons were described as non-residents.

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