Measles in Massachusetts

Measles alert issued in Massachusetts after Boston hospital exposure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Measles has been in the news lately after an exposure at a large church led to several infections in Texas. Now the state of Massachusetts is facing a similar situation after discovering cases of potential hospital exposure.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), two measles cases were recently discovered at two Boston area hospitals. While no additional cases have been reported, there is a potential that many people were exposed.

Health officials are urging the public to be on alert for symptoms and be vigilant in the face of these measles cases.

"Talk to your doctor about vaccinations. "

Measles has been largely eliminated in the US, but it is still a major issue in other parts of the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), measles leads to ear infection in about one out of 10 childhood cases, pneumonia in about one out of 20, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in about one out of 1,000 and death in one or two out of 1,000 cases.

According to Massachusetts DPH, one case of measles was discovered at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the other at Metrowest Hospital in Framingham, a community located about 20 miles west of downtown Boston. Both cases were diagnosed during the last two weeks of August.

Measles is highly contagious and spread through the air when an infected person coughs, breaths or sneezes. "Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected with the measles virus," says CDC.

People become immune to measles through vaccinations or if they have already had the disease.

Massachusetts DPH has warned that people without immunity who were at the two hospitals in question at the same time as the confirmed patients might be at risk for developing the disease.

This includes visiting the Massachusetts General Hospital Walk-in Clinic on August 17 or 19, the Emergency Department on August 20 or the Inpatient areas on August 20 through August 23. For Metrowest Hospital, it includes both the Emergency Department and Inpatient areas on August 23 or 24.

"Anyone who visited these hospital locations on any of the dates listed and is showing symptoms of measles are advised to contact their healthcare provider," Massachusetts DPH recommended. "Both hospitals have been reaching out to individuals at high risk of exposure, and are collaborating with DPH and local health authorities to ensure that all exposed individuals have this information."

Symptoms of measles tend to develop one to two weeks after exposure and may include fever, cough and runny nose, says CDC. A rash that can spread over the entire body often develops. 

"People with measles may be contagious up to four days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears," says Massachusetts DPH.

Massachusetts DPH urged people who might have been exposed and begin to develop symptoms to call their healthcare provider before coming in, to help prevent additional exposures. 

“Fortunately, most people have been vaccinated against measles,” said State Epidemiologist Al DeMaria, MD, in a press statement. “Our efforts now are to identify people who may be at risk for getting ill and who may spread the disease further, and asking them to telephone their providers rather than going directly to a healthcare facility.”

Review Date: 
September 4, 2013
Last Updated:
September 4, 2013