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Erie County resident with measles leads to health alert, concern of outbreak

An Erie County resident infected with measles visited eight places between Dec. 4 and Tuesday, posing a risk to anyone at the places at the time of the visits who had not been vaccinated, Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said Wednesday.

"It’s very, very contagious," she said. "Unfortunately, it can cause very serious infections."

The resident, an Eastern European immigrant who came to the United States on Nov. 27,  visited Catholic Charities on Herkimer Street, the Department of Health clinic on William Street, Sweet Home High School, Erie County Social Services on Pearl Street, Aldi and Best Buy on Transit Road, Marshalls on Maple Road and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Burstein said.

Burstein refused to identify the infected person's gender or the town in which he or she lives. No post-exposure vaccination clinics are being offered by the county because the time frame for giving post-exposure protection has passed. The person was not diagnosed with measles until late Monday but had been contagious for a week.

Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital confirmed the individual who came to the emergency department on Monday tested positive for measles.

"Hospital staff took immediate measures including placing the patient, who was clinically stable, on appropriate airborne isolation. The patient was treated and released," according to a Kaleida Health statement.

The hospital notified the state Department of Health of the exposure, as well as patients, family members and hospital staff who were in the emergency department when they could have been exposed. They will be given follow-up instructions, according to Kaleida's statement.

The individual with measles visited a county health clinic twice last week before being diagnosed at the hospital. Burstein said the individual went in for tests unrelated to the measles and did not have a rash at that time.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory system. Those with measles develop a rash about two weeks after exposure, with the rash spreading downward across the body, starting with the head. Prior to developing a rash, those with measles typically develop a fever, eye inflammation, a cough, runny nose and sore throat.

The virus is transmitted to others when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes near others who do not have immunity or have not been vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can infect others for up to two hours after an infected person has left an area. About 90 percent of vulnerable people who are exposed to someone with the measles become infected.

The infection is not common in the United States because most people are vaccinated against the disease as children, though isolated outbreaks have become more frequent among those who are not vaccinated.

People at high risk for severe measles-related illnesses are infants and children under age 5, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, according to the CDC.

Those who have had the two-dose measles or measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, however, are considered to be protected because the vaccine is highly effective, Burstein said. Those born before 1957 are also considered immune.

Residents who believe they may have contracted measles are urged to call their health care provider in advance and inform them if they suspect they have measles so their provider can determine how to examine them without exposing other patients to risk of infection.

Here are the time frames of potential exposure:

  • Catholic Charities, 20 Herkimer St., on Dec. 4, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. or on Dec. 6 between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Erie County Health Clinic at the Jesse Nash Health Center, 608 William St., on Dec. 4 between 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Dec. 6 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sweet Home High School on Dec. 5, between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
  • Erie County Social Services, 158 Pearl St., on Dec. 6, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Aldi, 4259 Transit Road, on Dec. 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Best Buy, 4401 Transit Road, on Dec. 6, between 6 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
  • Marshalls, 2383 Maple Road, on Dec. 6, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital Emergency Department, on Monday, between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
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