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Katelyn Ferral
By Katelyn Ferral January 17, 2024

Possible measles exposure at Washington, D.C.-area airports is not Disease X

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Is a possible measles exposure at two Washington, D.C.,-area airports the precursor to another pandemic?

That’s the claim in a Jan 16 TikTok post that links a possible measles outbreak at Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles International airports to Disease X, the term for a hypothetical new disease that will cause a future pandemic.  

Text in the TikTok post reads: "BREAKING: Reports are coming in that passengers in the state of Virginia might have been exposed to highly contagious Measles. Disease X. Election 2024." The post also includes a Fox News segment reporting that a case of measles has surfaced in a traveler passing through the two Virginia airports.   

TikTok identified this video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with TikTok.) An Instagram post with similar language was also separately flagged

News outlets have reported a potential measles exposure for travelers after a person with a confirmed case traveled through Dulles and Reagan airports in early January. 

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The news reports cite a press release from DC Health, which says the "threat of transmission is low." 

Virginia’s public health agency issued a similar release and said it is investigating the possible exposure. 

No reports from public health officials link the possible measles exposure to a potential new pandemic, or a possible Disease X. Disease X does not yet exist and is a placeholder name the World Health Organization uses to determine how to prioritize research and prevent another global pandemic. It has been the subject of conspiracy theories.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease," according to the WHO. 

We rate the claim that a possible measles exposure at Dulles and Reagan airports is linked to Disease X False. 


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Possible measles exposure at Washington, D.C.-area airports is not Disease X

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