Massachusetts health officials are warning of a possible measles exposure in the Greater Boston area.
The state Department of Public Health said a person was diagnosed with measles on Sunday. During the infectious period, the individual went to locations where other people may have been exposed.
"The measles virus is currently causing large national and international outbreaks of measles and a lack of vaccination, combined with domestic and international travel, has resulted in the spread of illness," said Dr. Catherine Brown, the state epidemiologist. "Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself from this disease."
"We had one confirmed adult case of measles infection at our Harvard Vanguard Wellesley practice and worked closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health," Dr. Preeti Mehrotra, the medicinal director of infection control at Atrius Health, said in a statement. "Exposed patients and staff were swiftly identified and contacted as part of our control efforts. We take very seriously our commitment to take all necessary steps to protect our patients, visitors, staff and the general public."
Measles is very contagious. People who are not immune who visited any of the locations could be at risk for developing measles and are advised to contact their health care provider to confirm their immunization status.
According to health officials, exposures to the infected individual may have occurred at the following locations and times:
TUESDAY, MARCH 26
- 1:40-4:40 p.m.: Katie's Burger Bar, 38 Main Street Ext., Plymouth
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 27
- 8:40-10:45 a.m.: Starbucks, 12 Market Place Drive, Waltham
- 2:05-4:20 p.m.: Framingham Service Plaza on I-90 west, Framingham
THURSDAY, MARCH 28
- 8:50-11:10 a.m.: Staples, 800 Lexington St., Waltham
- 9:10-11:15 a.m.: Dunkin’, Wal-Lex Shopping Center, 876A Lexington St., Waltham
- 11:55 a.m.-2:05 p.m.: Whole Foods, 990 Lyannough Road, Hyannis
- 2-4:05 p.m.: Target, 250 Granite St., Braintree
"I come every day and yes, I was here last week, and that's very nerve-wracking," said Julie O'Neill, a customer at the Waltham Dunkin' location.
Those who have not been immunized or do not know their measles immunization status should get vaccinated with at least one dose of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine. Measles vaccine given within 72 hours of exposure may prevent measles disease, and vaccination beyond this window will provide protection from subsequent exposures. Massachusetts health officials, local health departments and health care providers are working to contact individuals at high risk for exposure.
"Measles is transmitted through the respiratory tract, so people who are in a room and breathe the same air as a measles case can contract measles," said Dr. Paul Sax, professor at Harvard Medical School. "So it doesn't require any close contact for it to be transmitted."
Measles outbreaks have been declared in four states, and more people in the U.S. have been infected in the first three months of 2019 than all of last year, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has confirmed 387 cases across 15 states from Jan. 1 through March 28, compared with 372 cases all last year. The health agency updates the statistics weekly. There are now six outbreaks, defined as three or more cases, across four states: New York, Washington, New Jersey and California, according to the CDC.
This year is shaping up to be the worst year for measles since at least 2014 and is already the second-worst since the virus was declared eradicated from the U.S. in 2000. Measles has been making a comeback as parents increasingly refuse to vaccinate their children and unvaccinated travelers bring back the disease from other countries. In 2014, there were 667 confirmed cases, according to the CDC.
Measles can be especially dangerous for young children, the CDC says. It can lead to pneumonia, brain swelling and even death. The CDC recommends children get their first dose MMR vaccine at between 12 and 15 months old and a second dose when they’re between 4 and 6 years old.
"Measles is incredibly dangerous in some people," said Sax, who is also the clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "There are people who get pneumonia that can be life-threatening and there are people that can get something called encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain."
The CDC says the current measles outbreaks in the U.S. are mostly linked to people traveling internationally to countries like Israel and Ukraine that are experiencing large outbreaks. It’s spreading quickly in close-knit religious communities, such as New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, where many people choose not to get vaccinated.
Public health officials are desperately trying to assure parents that vaccines are safe and are the best way to protect their children from dangerous and potentially deadly diseases like measles. The anti-vaxxing movement, which advocates against vaccination, has been pushing now debunked studies that falsely suggested there was a link between vaccines and autism.