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Passenger on flight from Baltimore to San Diego was infected with measles, officials warn

February 26, 2011 |  5:12 pm

Passengers aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore to Denver and San Diego on Feb. 22 are in danger of contracting measles because one of the passengers was infected with the virus, San Diego County health officials said Saturday.

Passengers are being contacted by health workers and warned that if they have not had an anti-measles vaccination that they should be on the lookout for early symptoms: a rash, red eyes, a runny nose or a cough.

The infectious passenger left the flight in Denver. But even those unvaccinated passengers who boarded in Denver for San Diego are at risk because the measles virus can hang in the air and live on surfaces for up to two hours, officials said.

When the flight arrived in San Diego, there were 138 passengers.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the San Diego County public health officer, advised passengers to call their doctors in advance of spotting any symptoms so that exposure to others can be limited.

While there is a vaccine to prevent measles, there is no cure once the virus takes hold. Bed rest, fluids and fever-control are the best treatments, officials said.

The measles virus can quickly infect people who have not been vaccinated. There are documented cases of people being infected who did not get within 100 feet of an infected person, Wooten said.

"Measles is so contagious that if one person  has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected," Wooten said.

By law, a case of measles must be reported to health officials. That's how officials discovered that a person with the virus was on the flight.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego