Maine health officials confirmed a case of measles Tuesday, issuing a warning that the public was potentially exposed to the highly contagious virus in mid-June at several locations in Franklin County. This is the first case of measles recorded in Maine in 20 years, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The individual contracted the disease while traveling overseas, said state epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett. She declined to comment on whether the individual is a Maine resident, a child or adult, or vaccinated against measles, citing privacy concerns.
“The Maine CDC is working with clinicians to identify potentially exposed individuals and make appropriate recommendations to prevent transmission,” she said.
The public may have been exposed to measles at the following locations during these time periods:
— Narrow Gauge Cinema, Farmington, Maine, 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 15
— Grantlee’s Tavern and Grill, Farmington, Maine, 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday, June 15
— Farmington Farmers Market, Farmington, Maine, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 17
— The Kingfield Woodsman, Kingfield, Maine, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, June 18
— Restaurant la Chocolaterie, Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 18
— Franklin Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, 8 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday, June 18
— Franklin Memorial Hospital Laboratory, noon to 2:30 p.m., Monday, June 19
Health officials recommended that individuals who were potentially exposed review their vaccine history and monitor for symptoms. Those experiencing symptoms should contact their health care providers for instructions before arriving at the providers’ offices or at hospitals, Maine CDC said.
Symptoms of measles include a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by a rash that begins on the head and spreads down the body. While most people recover from the virus, it can cause severe health complications including pneumonia, encephalitis and even death.
Measles is so contagious that 90 percent of people who are not immune can catch it from being in close proximity to an infected person, according to the U.S. CDC. No other cases were under investigation in Maine as of Tuesday afternoon.
Measles spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The measles virus can survive for up to two hours in the air and on surfaces.
Infected people are contagious from four days before the rash begins through four days after it appears. Symptoms typically begin 10 to 14 days after exposure to the virus but sometimes up to 21 days later, so travelers may not realize they’re infected until after returning home, Bennett said.
Testing can determine whether an individual is infected with measles, but should be used only when symptoms are present, the Maine CDC said.
Immunization is the best defense against the illness, according to infectious disease experts. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine protects against all strains of the disease.
Maine has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country among children 19 to 35 months old, according to a recent study. In that age group, 96 percent of children are vaccinated against measles.
The CDC recommends that children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, at 12-15 months of age and again at 4 to 6 years. Children ages 6 to 11 months who will travel internationally should receive one dose, according to the CDC.
Adults are considered immune to measles if they have documentation of adequate vaccination, a lab test showing immunity or a history of the illness, or they were born before 1957. Otherwise, adults should receive one dose of the MMR vaccine, or two if they are considered high risk, including international travelers, health care workers, and college students, according to the CDC.
Women should not receive any live virus vaccine, including MMR, during pregnancy.
Two doses of the MMR vaccine would be 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, Bennett said.
Measles has no cure. Treatment involves rest, alleviating fever and other symptoms, supporting the immune system and consuming fluids to avoid dehydration.
Maine last recorded a case of measles in 1997.
Maine CDC issued a similar warning in April 2015 after a student infected with measles visited the Kittery outlet malls, but that case never led to any infections in Maine and was recorded in the student’s originating state of Massachusetts.
“A lot of providers here in the state have never seen a case of measles,” Bennett said.