PETERSBURG, Va -- Five individuals who recently traveled from Afghanistan as part of the U.S. emergency evacuation efforts have been diagnosed with measles, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The VDH is reaching out to people in the Central Health Region and the Northern Health Region who may have been exposed to the outbreak.

The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have worked with a Richmond area hospital to identify and notify individuals potentially exposed at the hospital on Sept. 10. The Piedmont Health District is also working with federal partners to identify exposures at Fort Pickett in Nottoway County. Health departments in Northern Virginia recently announced they were working to identify those who may have been exposed at Dulles International Airport and other locations. 

“When there is an ongoing concern that there may be people unaware of potential exposure to an individual diagnosed with measles, VDH is identifying locations to alert the public of the possible risk,” said the VDH in a press release. “When potential exposures are limited and persons who were potentially exposed have been identified, VDH contacts those individuals directly.”

Measles is a highly contagious illness that is spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of an infected individual. Most Americans have lifetime immunity against measles because they were vaccinated against the disease as children. 

Measles is easily preventable through a safe and effective vaccine given as part of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine series given usually in two doses with the first dose given at age 12 to 15 months and the second prior to kindergarten entry, between the ages of 4 to 6 years old.

“All persons who will be traveling internationally should be evaluated for measles immunity and vaccinated as needed.” stated the VDH. “Infants too young to be vaccinated should avoid travel to areas with measles until they can be vaccinated. Clinicians should keep measles as a possible diagnosis when evaluating individuals who have recently entered or returned to the United States.”

Residents with additional questions about the measles investigation should contact their local health district; find contact information, here: www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts. For more information on measles, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/epidemiology-fact-sheets/measles-rubeola/.