Passengers on 4 Southwest Flights May Have Been Exposed to Measles

The Houston Health Department says it's helping to find passengers from four Southwest Airlines flights who might have been exposed to measles.

The disease can kill in rare cases, but vaccinations have reduced cases by 99% in the U.S. since the 1960s.

It said passengers on the flights were told, in a letter from the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, to keep an eye on potential symptoms until September 11 because the incubation period can be up to 21 days.

Other travelers who were in the affected airports on August 21 or 22 are at a lower risk of infection than those who were on flights with the sick passenger, the health department said. Passengers on the affected flights may develop symptoms as late as September 12 and should see their doctor if so, according to the Houston Health Department. The virus lives in the nose and throat and spreads though coughs and sneezes.

Rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and irritated eyes are just some of the symptoms of the virus.

Any person who was on any of the flights is asked to contact their medical provider.

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The passenger was diagnosed with measles after traveling, a Southwest representative told TIME, but health department said the person was contagious at the time of the flights.

"We will reach out to the other 10 to make sure they know about it, and also monitor their symptoms", Porfirio Villarreal, spokesperson with the Houston Health Department, said.

The measles virus can kill in rare cases.

Vaccinations have gone a long way in reducing the incidence of measles. "The vaccine is safe and effective". Two doses of the MMR vaccine prevent against 97% of measles cases, according to the CDC.

It is not the first warning about measles issued to airline passengers this year. Since then, measles vaccines have reduced instances of the disease by 99%, according to the CDC, though the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world. For non-immunized people, some doctors recommend a post-exposure vaccine.

The measles is an acute viral respiratory illness and described by the Center for Disease Control as "one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases". It says outbreaks can typically happen when a person who hasn't been vaccinated travels overseas then spreads the virus to other unvaccinated people.

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