A fourth measles case has been confirmed in a person in the Pikesville area, the state Department of Health reported Friday.
Public health officials had said the virus is highly contagious and other cases were possible since the first case was reported April 5, though so far they have been contained in a section of Baltimore County north of the city with the zip codes 21208, 21209 and 21215.
The officials are encouraging people to ask their health care provider if they have been vaccinated with two doses of the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine, which protects the vast majority of people.
“While the outbreak is currently localized to a small area of the state, the best way to prevent measles in Maryland, or anywhere people might travel, is through vaccination,” said Frances B. Phillips, deputy secretary for public health. “We continue to encourage all Marylanders to get vaccinated or check with their health care providers to ensure they and their families are up to date on vaccinations.”
The health department is also warning those who have visited a medical facility at 4000 Old Court Road on April 16 from 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. might have been exposed to measles and should consult their health care provider if they develop symptoms.
Measles symptoms typically develop 10 days to two weeks after exposure to the virus but can develop in a week or take as long as 21 days. The first symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and red, watery eyes. In a day to four days, a red rash normally appears on the face and spreads across the body. Someone is contagious for four days before the rash appears, until four days after it begins.
Measles can cause serious complications, including pneumonia (a lung infection) or encephalitis (swelling of the brain).
Maryland is among 20 states with measles cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports that the 555 cases reported through April 11 are the second the second-greatest number reported in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.
The U.S. cases have been linked to travelers who brought measles back from countries including Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines, where there currently are large outbreaks. The cases are proliferating in U.S. communities with pockets of unvaccinated people, including in the Orthodox Jewish community in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, according to the CDC.
Baltimore-area Jewish leaders have urged members of the community to get vaccinated to prevent more cases and issued guidance. They have also urged caution when traveling to other areas affected by the disease, a warning that came as the Passover holiday began and families may be visiting relatives.
Sinai Hospital asked children under age 14 to avoid its Northwest Baltimore campus unless they have an appointment after the first person in the area, a child, was diagnosed with measles. A second person was diagnosed in the same household, but the third person was not. No more information about them is being made public.
The hospital also asked people to seek a vaccination in a doctor’s office rather than the emergency room to avoid potentially infecting large numbers of people, which could include vulnerable people such as pregnant women, infants who can’t be vaccinated and those with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients.
Public health officials cite the ease in which the virus is spread through coughing and sneezing. The virus can remain in the air for two hours.