Pennsylvania officials warn about measles exposures

May 6, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The identification of three probable measles cases with links to French foreign exchange students who were ill prompted health officials in Pennsylvania counties yesterday to issue alerts about possible exposures in two counties and one of the state's school districts.

The Bucks County Health Department (BCHD) said in a statement that the French foreign exchange students had experienced measles symptoms but returned home before testing could be conducted. Several European countries have reported measles outbreaks over the past few months, with the highest levels of activity and number of cases occurring in France.

The three patients with suspected measles infections live in the Council Rock School District, and the affected schools and students are being notified, the BCHD said. All were at least partially vaccinated. Children who have not been vaccinated will be removed from the schools until the possible illness incubation period is over.

In a letter to parents yesterday the school district said there has been a confirmed case of measles at Council Rock High School North and Newton Middle School.

Other possible exposures could have occurred the morning of Apr 30 at a casino in Bensalem and the evening of Apr 30 at a restaurant murder mystery dinner in Lahaska, the health department said. It is asking people who were at the locations and are susceptible to the virus to observe for measles symptoms between yesterday and May 17.

Dr. David Damsker, director of the BCDH, said in the statement that the measles threat illustrates the importance of vaccination. "Diseases that are rare in the U.S. are still circulating around the world, and are only a plane flight away," he said. "This is another reminder to check with your physician and make sure you and members of your family are up-to-date on their vaccinations."

In a related development, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) said its investigation of the three probable measles cases has found that possible exposures could have occurred on Apr 19 in Lancaster County, according to a statement. The four locations include an outlet center, a bakery, a craft store, and a toyshop.

Meanwhile in Utah, 22 students and 10 staff at a Payson elementary school who are not fully immunized against measles were sent home yesterday because they may have been exposed to a student who had positive results in preliminary testing for measles, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. They have been asked to stay home until May 10.

So far Utah health officials have confirmed nine measles cases and investigated 40 suspected cases, according to the Tribune report. The Salt Lake Valley Health Department has been tracking 12,000 people, most of whom are school students.

On Apr 21 the Utah Health Department issued an alert to people who may have attended two community events where they could have been exposed to measles, according to previous reports. The quarantine periods for people at the events ended on Apr 29 and May 1.

Utah's measles cases also have links to European travel. The outbreak is the state's first since 2005 and the largest since 1996.

See also:

May 5 BCHD statement

Apr 26 CIDRAP News story "Utah asks dozens to quarantine themselves to stop measles"

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