Two passengers contracted measles on an international flight to San Francisco

Two passengers contracted measles on an international flight to San Francisco from a third infected traveler, US health officials say

  • California is one of 11 US states experiencing a measles outbreak 
  • The virus, which can be life-threatening to children, was thought to be eradicated in 2000 
  • But, fueled by state exemptions to shots and the rise of the anti-vaxxer movement, the measles is back in the US 
  • Two people on  February flight to San Francisco contracted measles from a third, infected traveler, the California Department of Public Health said Wednesday
  • No additional cases in the state have been linked to the three travelers  

Two Americans contracted measles from a third, infected passenger on a flight to San Francisco, US health officials reported Wednesday. 

The San Francisco Department of Health announced in a statement that the three people were flying from an undisclosed foreign country to the US in February. 

One of them had previously caught the virus, and one San Francisco resident and one Santa Cruz, California, resident were infected in the air. 

Though measles is highly contagious, the health officials assured the public that no additional cases had been reported in connection to the three passengers, and that these would have appeared within 21 days of the exposure. 

Measles outbreaks have cropped up across the globe, and two likely unvaccinated people traveling from a foreign country to San Francisco contracted the virus on a flight 

In 2000, the US declared that the country was free of measles, attributing the elimination of the deadly infection to the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.  

But, now, on the heals of the anti-vaxxer movement, the measles are back, and threatening the lives of babies, children and people with compromised immune systems for the first time in nearly two decades. 

This year, there are 11 states with ongoing outbreaks. 

The dangerous disease is spreading in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Typically, the makes its way into the US when travelers from other countries with lower vaccination rates and higher rates of annual cases travel enter the country before being diagnosed. 

In Washington, where a single county has seen 70 cases of measles prompted the declaration of a state of emergency, the outbreak has been traced back to a traveler from Israel. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles have also been brought back from the Ukraine, which is in the midst of its own major outbreak.  

States like Washington have laws in place that allow children to be exempt from shots based on religious or philosophical beliefs. 

Following a major outbreak in 2014-2015, California struck its own law allowing such exemptions, instead instituting one of the nation’s toughest vaccination policies. 

Some experts have worried that measles could travel to California from other neighboring states, but the health department’s recent report suggests that some California populations may still be unvacinnated – in spite of tougher policies. 

The good news for Californians is that three infected travelers flew into San Francisco back in February. 

Measles symptoms become clear within 21 days of exposure, and no one else in the individuals’ respective counties has been diagnosed with the life-threatening illness. 

The health department assured the public that others were at ‘very low risk’ of contracting the disease, but residents should still be watchful for the tell-tale blotchy rash, fever, sore throat, eye inflammation and cough that mark the measles. 

And officials are insistent that vaccination is more key than ever. 

‘Making sure you have all your immunizations is especially important for travelers, because measles is circulating in many countries outside the United States,’ the health department advised in a brief statement. 

‘Early immunization with MMR vaccine is recommended for infants ages 6-11 months before going on an international trip.’