Tag: airplane

Is Measles Really Airborne?

As we reach record numbers of measles cases, what are anti-vaccine folks concerned about?

Anti-vaccine folks trying to do research about measles and miss dozens of articles describing how measles is indeed airborne.
Anti-vaccine folks trying to do research about measles and miss dozens of articles describing how measles is indeed airborne.

Making sure their kids get caught up on their vaccines so that they don’t catch measles, since it is so contagious? Nope. They are still trying to find reasons to justify their decision to leave their kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Is Measles Really Airborne?

Guess what?

Measles really is airborne!


Are you thinking that I am relying on a single experiment from 1964 or do you think I found some more evidence when I did my research?

Is this something folks really doubt, after all, if measles isn’t airborne, how would it be so contagious? How would people get sick after simply being in the same room as someone else with measles, even if the sick person had already left?

“During the past decade, increasing attention has been giving to the theory that indoor air is a vehicle of respiratory infection and to the logical sequence of such a theory, that the transfer from person to person of such infection can be reduced by increasing ventilation.”

Wells et al on Ventilation in the flow of measles and chickenpox through a community

In fact, even before the measles virus was actually discovered in the 1950s, it was known that measles was airborne. Wells did her experiments in the 1940s.

“It is far from clear to me yet whether measles is solely an airborne infection, as I think Wells believed, or whether contact and airborne routes both play roles in different circumstances. It is clear however that airborne infection is sufficiently common and important to be a dertermining factor in the continuance of measles at the present time. It must receive due respect and weight in planning the future steps necessary for eradication.”

Langmuir on Changing concepts of airborne infection of acute contagious diseases: a reconsideration of classic epidemiologic theories.

And those experiments were revisited in the 1970s, when measles wasn’t eradicated as quickly as expected. Alex Langmuir was Chief Epidemiologist at CDC at the time.

Did you ever hear about the story of the folks who got measles International Special Olympics Games in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area during July 1991? It’s not a story the anti-vaccine groups would tell you. It’s a published case report, An outbreak of measles at an international sporting event with airborne transmission in a domed stadium.

“…the dynamic airborne transmission of measles illustrates the potential for transmission in the absence of a recognized exposure.”

Ehresmann et al on An outbreak of measles at an international sporting event with airborne transmission in a domed stadium

Several people at the Games got measles simply because they were in the domed stadium, even though they had no direct contact with anyone who had measles.

There are also reports of kids getting measles at their pediatrician’s office, simply because another kid with measles had been seen a little earlier.

Airborne Transmission of Measles in a Physician's Office

The kids described at the Michigan pediatrician’s office didn’t have any direct contact with the child with measles. They simply showed up in the same office an hour later.

“Four children had transient contact with the source patient as he entered or exited through the waiting room; only one of the four had face-to-face contact within 1 m of the source patient. The three other children who contracted measles were never in the same room with the source patient; one of the three arrived at the office one hour after the source patient had left.”

Block et al on Measles outbreak in a pediatric practice: airborne transmission in an office setting

Researchers described a similar situation at a pediatrician’s office in DeKalb County, Georgia at around the same time.

“Airflow studies demonstrated that droplet nuclei generated in the examining room used by the source patient were dispersed throughout the entire office suite. Airborne spread of measles from a vigorously coughing child was the most likely mode of transmission.”

Block et al on Measles outbreak in a pediatric practice: airborne transmission in an office setting

And increasing, we are seeing that airborne transmission means more folks are at risk on airplanes.

There is no doubt that measles is contagious and that measles really is airborne. Just like there is no doubt that vaccines are safe, with few risks.

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Measles in Iceland

Have you ever played the game Plague Inc?

If you have, you know it is really hard to infect Iceland!

“An 11-month-old child was diagnosed with measles last weekend. The virus is thought to have entered into the country via a person that came to Iceland from the Philippines last February 14 on an Icelandair flight, the Directorate of Health has stated.”

Eleven Month Old Child Infected by Measles

Not so much in real life…

Measles in Iceland

With the rise of measles cases in so many places in the world, it appears that even Iceland isn’t immune to the virus.

All it takes is someone with measles getting on a plane:

“Since 2016, measles cases have repeatedly occurred on board aircraft passing through Iceland. The first such case occurred on board an Icelandair plane in August 2016 in a child in transit in Iceland on its way from Canada to England. One unvaccinated Icelander on the same plane became ill of measles.

In the spring of 2017, a nine-month-old child became ill after returning to Iceland from Thailand. The baby’s twin brother became ill of measles two weeks later in Iceland. The brothers were unvaccinated because of their young age. By the end of October 2017, an Icelandic resident who had been staying in Bangladesh became ill with mild symptoms after returning to Iceland. He had a history of adequate vaccination against measles and the antibody response was potent, leading to mild non-characteristic morbidity syndrome.

In May of this year, a case of measles was confirmed on board an Icelandair plane flying from Germany to Canada with a transit in Iceland and again, in July, in an individual travelling from England to the United States with WOW air, also transiting in Iceland. No Icelanders became infected in these airplanes.”

EPI-ICE. October 2018

Why aren’t even more cases of measles in Iceland?

Most folks in Iceland are vaccinated and protected!

They likely need to do a better job of getting kids an early MMR if they are going to be traveling out of the country though.

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