Southwest passengers on 4 flights exposed to measles, officials say

HOUSTON – A Southwest Airlines passenger from North Texas who was infected with measles changed planes at Hobby Airport last month and may have exposed others to the virus, according to officials at the Houston Health Department.

Officials said the patient was contagious at the time of the flights, on Aug. 21 and 22. They said the passenger never left the airport and remained in waiting areas inside the airport for about an hour each day.

Here are the flights the passenger was on, according to officials.

Tuesday, Aug. 21:

  • Flight 5: From Dallas Love to Houston Hobby
  • Flight 9: From Houston Hobby to Harlingen

Wednesday, Aug. 22:

  • Flight 665: From Harlingen to Houston Hobby
  • Flight 44: From Houston Hobby to Dallas Love

Officials at the Health Department said they are contacting passengers who may have been exposed to the virus.

“People at the airport are at a much lower risk of exposure than passengers on the flights with the patient,” said Dr. David Persse, of the Houston Health Department Local Health Authority. “That’s why our focus is on directly contacting the passengers to notify them of the risk, inquire about their vaccination status and make sure they monitor for symptoms and seek medical attention if necessary.”

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable virus that lives in the nose and throat of an infected person. It can spread to others through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms of measles include a rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.

Passengers exposed to this patient may develop symptoms as late as Sept. 12, officials said. Anyone who develops symptoms of measles should contact their medical provider.

“This serves as a reminder about the importance of proper vaccination,” Persse said. “The vaccine is safe and effective.”

Southwest Airlines released the following statement about the incident:

"Our Safety and Security groups worked with the CDC to support the agency’s work in reaching our customers who traveled onboard four intra-Texas flights last week (details below) with a passenger later diagnosed with measles. We’ve shared awareness of the situation and protocols with our employees who also were onboard these aircraft. 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."

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