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Traveler sick with measles traveled through Hobby Airport in August

September 7, 2018

A traveler tested positive for measles after flying through Hobby Airport twice last month for a pair of connecting flights between Dallas and the border town of Harlingen, according to Houston Health Department officials.

The traveler was “contagious at the time of travel” for two days in August and is feared to have spread the disease to other passengers, the officials said.

Southwest Airlines confirmed that the passenger was on Flight 5 from Dallas Love Field to Hobby and Flight 9 from Hobby to Valley International Airport in Harlingen on Aug. 21. The passenger returned to north Texas the following day on Flight 665 from the airport in Harlingen to Hobby and Flight 44 from Hobby to Dallas, according to the airline.

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A spokesperson for the Dallas-based airline said the company is working with the U.S. Center for Disease Control to reach the passengers on the four flights.

“Our entire fleet is subject to rigorous and regular cleaning programs and every aircraft utilizes hospital-quality HEPA filtration that improves overall quality of the air in the passenger cabin,” the spokesperson said.

The Houston Health Department is calling 27 passengers in the Houston area to warn them of the possible exposure, spokesman Porfirio Villarreal said. At least 17 passengers already have been contacted as of Thursday night and have not reported any symptoms linked to the disease, he added.

The symptoms — which include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes — could manifest as late as Sept. 12, Villarreal said.

The passenger did not leave the airport during the connecting flights at Hobby and is believed to have only visited an airport waiting area for about an hour each day.

For a handful of travelers, some found out about the measles case only after landing on Thursday night.

“As a parent, I’d be worried about people not vaccinating their kids,” said Patrick Dupree, a father of four who was traveling with his family. “I’m not sure how much you can safeguard.”

This is the second confirmed case of measles in the Houston area since 2013. Last month, a little boy who recently traveled outside of the country fell ill with the disease and was being treated at Texas Children’s Hospital.

A nurse at the hospital was fired after she wrote about the boy’s illness on a Facebook page for the anti-vaccination group Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children-Texas.

No known connection between the two cases has been found, Villarreal said.

“Measles is eliminated here in the United States, but we do get cases from people who have traveled abroad,” Villarreal said.

It was not immediately known where the traveler in the latest case contracted the disease and if they had recently left the country.

Jay R. Jordan contributed to this report.

nicole.hensley@chron.com

@nkhensley

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