Maryland saw its first measles case of the year last week when a child was diagnosed with the contagious disease. The child who was diagnosed did not seek treatment at Sinai Hospital, but his pediatrician is on Sinai’s medical staff, said Dr. Scott Krugman, vice chair of pediatrics at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai.
Since last week, the hospital has been working with state, city and county health departments and community leaders to prevent a measles outbreak locally. As unsubstantiated fears about the side effects of vaccination have grown, measles has spread rapidly in pockets where people are unvaccinated.
Nationwide this year, 465 cases of measles were confirmed in 19 states through April 4, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If there was to be an outbreak in Pikesville, we figured we would be ground zero,” Krugman said.
Orthodox Jewish communities have seen outbreaks in New York, New Jersey and Detroit, and earlier this week local Jewish leaders issued guidance on preventing measles from spreading in the Baltimore area.
“It was a matter of when not if it was going to hit Maryland because there’s a real overlap of that community visiting all over the place,” Krugman said, noting Sinai wanted to take proactive measures to prevent more measles cases from developing before people begin traveling for Passover next weekend. “Overall Maryland has been spared from a lot of the measles outbreak because our immunization rates are so high, and we want to keep it that way.”
After the case was confirmed in Maryland, the Maryland Department of Health warned people who visited a building at 4000 Old Court Road in Pikesville between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. April 2 to monitor themselves for early measles symptoms, including fever, runny nose, cough and red, watery eyes.
Krugman said Sinai has had nightly conversations with public health officials and local Jewish leaders in an effort to proactively combat measles.
Yesterday Sinai Hospital implemented its policy of not allowing children under 14 to visit without an appointment. And local Jewish spiritual leaders, schools and health organizations issued further recommendations earlier this week regarding measles.
It’s unclear how long Sinai will keep children from visiting without appointments; Krugman said the hospital is evaluating the risk of measles day by day.
Krugman advised people who believe they have been in contact with a measles patient or have symptoms to contact their local health department. He also suggested people who have not been vaccinated to seek vaccines from their doctors’ offices rather than emergency rooms.
“What we don’t want is to not do anything and to have somebody show up and infect an entire waiting room,” Krugman said.
Infants under age 1 (who are too young for vaccination), people whose immune systems are compromised by other illnesses and adults who have only received one of the two recommended MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccines are at the greatest risk for contracting measles. But those who have received two shots are essentially immune.
No other cases have been confirmed in Maryland since the health department announced the first case Friday.
“It’s been a really fantastic coordinated effort to really prevent an outbreak,” Krugman said. “The more that hospitals and public health officials can coordinate together in any time of any outbreak, measles being one example, it’s a great thing.”