Maryland health officials said Friday that the state has confirmed a case of measles, a highly contagious viral infection that has been spreading in several other states in numbers not seen in decades.
This is the first official case reported this year by the Maryland Department of Health, though there have been 387 cases confirmed in 15 other states through the end of March, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the second-highest number of cases reported nationwide since 2000.
Health officials do not identify people with infectious diseases, though they count them and report them to the CDC.
And they warn the public, and in this case, officials say others in the Baltimore region may have been exposed. They say anyone who visited 4000 Old Court Road in Pikesville, a building with several medical offices, on April 2 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. should monitor themselves for early symptoms such as 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 days before the rash appears until four days after it begins.
The resurgence of the virus has jolted public health officials because it had been considered wiped out in the United States almost two decades ago. But more people have begun using religious and philosophical exemptions to opt out of vaccinating their children, leading to a comeback particularly in states that have looser rules.
Maryland allows for medical and religious exemptions, but vaccination rates have remained high, though they have been dropping for kindergartners who normally are vaccinated before entering school.
A person in St. Mary’s County was thought to have measles last month, but a lab report found it was not the infection. The state reported only one case last year, which was imported from Georgia.
Those with symptoms should not go to school or work and they should call their doctor before going to avoid potentially infecting others. The measles can spread easily in unvaccinated people through coughing and sneezing and secretions from the mouth. The virus can remain in the air for up to two hours.
Those born before 1957 or who previously had measles or had two measles vaccine shots are considered immune.
Pregnant women and infants and those with compromised immune systems are considered at greatest risk for complications. Some people who believe they were exposed may be able to prevent measles if they are treated with a medicine called immune globulin within six days of exposure.
Contrary to widely accepted science, the vaccine has been refused by some parents who do not think it’s safe or natural. The measles vaccine is included in the measles-mumps-rubella (or MMR) vaccine that was also the subject of a repeatedly debunked study that linked it to autism.