Measles outbreak involving cases at a Philadelphia day care center expands, health officials say

Measles outbreak involving cases at a Philadelphia day care center expands, health officials say

The measles outbreak in Philadelphia has expanded, with eight cases reported in the past month, including at least five children, according to the city’s health department. All cases involved individuals lacking immunity to the virus. The outbreak began when a person infected with measles outside the US visited Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in early December, exposing three individuals who later tested positive for the highly contagious virus. Subsequently, one exposed person attended a Philadelphia day care, leading to hospitalizations of two children from the facility due to measles.

Health officials, responding to potential measles cases, announced that three additional children at the day care center may have contracted the virus. As of Monday, the health department confirmed a total of eight measles cases, including the initial patient, four from the day care, and three exposed at the hospital. The health department expanded the list of possible exposure locations and dates between December 19 and January 3, urging those who might have been exposed to quarantine for 21 days. Measles, being highly contagious and airborne, necessitates strict precautions due to its ability to linger in the air for several hours.

To curb the outbreak, the health department is providing free measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations for city residents. Vaccination is a crucial preventive measure, with experts recommending two doses for children: the first between 12 and 15 months and the second between 4 and 6 years old. One dose is about 93% effective, while two doses provide 97% effectiveness. Despite the current outbreak, the health department notes that 93% of Philadelphia’s children are fully vaccinated against measles by the age of 6.

Measles spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, remaining in the air for up to two hours. Additionally, the virus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. Initial symptoms resemble those of respiratory illnesses, followed by a characteristic rash. While measles is considered eliminated in the US, outbreaks can occur if unvaccinated individuals travel to regions where the disease is prevalent, contract the virus, and bring it back to the US.

Dr. Christina Johns, a pediatric emergency physician, emphasizes the dangers of measles, particularly for the unvaccinated and very young individuals. Post-infectious complications can include blindness and encephalitis, a rare but severe neurological condition. Johns stresses the importance of widespread awareness and vaccination to prevent potential complications. Vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella is crucial to maintain herd immunity and prevent the resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. The 2018-19 measles outbreak in Rockland County, New York, primarily affected unvaccinated children in Orthodox Jewish communities. While measles cases were limited to 48 in 2023, community vigilance and adherence to public health recommendations are crucial in preventing outbreaks.