Health officials in US are warning air travelers about possible exposure to measles, after a woman infected with the highly communicable disease traveled in Britain and several US states.
The 27-year-old first traveled from Britain to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, just outside the US capital, visiting Washington and the neighboring state of Maryland before flying to Albuquerque, New Mexico after a transfer in Denver, Colorado.
Local and state health officials are now searching for people who may have been exposed to measles during the unidentified woman's extensive travels.
"We have not heard up to now from anyone infected," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Jeff Dimond on Tuesday.
The woman experienced measles symptoms after arriving at her final destination, according to the CDC, which noted she had not been vaccinated.
"For measles, we typically contact people who are the row in front, the row behind (three rows total) and also any children... because they may not have been vaccinated yet," CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson told AFP.
But that procedure was not possible this time because some of the flights were on Southwest Airlines, which has an open seating policy. Instead, authorities are now engaged in a protracted, costly process of contacting all passengers -- about 319 -- on the applicable flights.
Most Americans have been vaccinated against measles or developed natural immunity after getting infected, especially if they were born before 1957.
Health authorities nonetheless worry that newborns and young children not yet vaccinated, along with pregnant women, may be especially vulnerable to the disease, which can cause severe symptoms and even death.
According to the latest CDC figures, 90 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months were vaccinated against measles in 2009, along with 89 percent of teenagers aged 13 to 17.
Measles is considered to have been eradicated from the United States, which counts only about 150 cases each year since 1997.
But there are some 10 million cases each year worldwide, and 164,000 deaths, especially among young children in developing countries.