Allegheny County warns of possible measles exposure on Port Authority bus Feb. 14

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Allegheny County has a reported case of the measles, its first since 2009 and one of only five cases recorded in the past decade, according to county health officials.

The county Health Department put the word out Friday, announcing that an unnamed person contracted the highly contagious virus in New York and may have exposed people in Pittsburgh, including those who took a specific Port Authority bus the morning of Valentine's Day.

Testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the measles case.

The Health Department has already notified people who work with the person, and also those they know likely came in contact with the places the person visited while contagious, said Ronald Voorhees, the department's acting chief of the office of epidemiology and biostatistics.

The infected person also took the 64 Port Authority bus leaving Fifth Avenue and South Highland Avenue in Shadyside and going toward Lawrenceville at 9:12 a.m. Feb. 14, so anyone who rode the bus between 9 and 11 a.m. that day may have been exposed to the measles, health officials said.

Other places where people may have been exposed include: the main entrance to the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside on Feb. 14 between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and between 7 and 9 p.m.; Bridgeside Point II Building in the Pittsburgh Technology Center Feb. 14 between noon and 3 p.m.; and at 5215 Centre Ave. in Shadyside, the building that houses the Stull, Jarvis and Spinola medical practice and the Shadyside Family Health Center, on Feb. 18 between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.

But even those who were exposed are unlikely to become sick, since most people are protected either through vaccination or natural immunity.

"We're trying to be very cautious," Dr. Voorhees said.

Those at risk for catching the measles include anyone born since 1957 who has not received two doses of the measles vaccine known as MMR, including infants who have not yet received their shots; people vaccinated with an inactivated vaccine between 1963 and 1967 without being re-vaccinated with the active shot later; and those who have not been vaccinated, the Health Department said.

Also at risk are people whose immune systems are compromised.

The Health Department is recommending that anyone who took that particular bus and becomes sick with symptoms of measles between today and March 7 contact their primary care provider immediately. Officials said people who become sick should not go directly to a medical center so as to avoid exposing others to the disease.

The symptoms of measles, which begin seven to 21 days after exposure, include runny nose, red and watery eyes, cough and a high fever, as well as a raised, red rash lasting four to seven days that begins on the face and spreads to the neck, trunk of the body and extremities.

For most, measles is a mild illness, Dr. Voorhees said.

But the disease can cause serious complications, including ear infection, diarrhea and pneumonia, encephalitis and even death. For pregnant women, the disease can also cause miscarriages or premature delivery.

Measles has largely disappeared from the United States, though Dr. Voorhees said prior to the vaccination efforts of the 1960s, nearly every American contracted it during his or her lifetime.

The scarcity of measles is due in large part to the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, which toddlers receive at age 12 to 15 months. A second MMR vaccine is required for all Pennsylvania school children, since a person who receives just one may still be susceptible.

Worldwide, the disease still kills about 164,000 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 60 cases are reported each year in the United States, with most of those originating from outside the country.

Dr. Voorhees said that seemed to be the situation with the Pittsburgh case, too.


Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published February 21, 2014 1:16 PM

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