Watch locally for measles after one case
NORTHAMPTON — Local health officials say they will remain vigilant through Friday for reports of measles linked to a Smith College faculty member being diagnosed with the rare viral illness last week.
Northampton Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary said Monday no new cases of measles have been reported since the faculty member was diagnosed April 6 at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. But area health authorities will remain on alert for reports from physicians or the public through Friday, when the incubation period for new cases ends.
“All references state that symptoms typically occur 10 to 14 days after exposure,” O’Leary said. “So to be safe, we are still on heightened alert from this incident until Friday.”
The Smith professor was admitted to Baystate April 2. The person has since been discharged and is no longer contagious.
Health officials have narrowed the location where the person came in contact with others at Smith to Dewey and Hatfield halls and also have notified people who may have been exposed.
Measles is a highly contagious disease that is rare in the U.S. but still common in other countries. The case at Baystate was one of eight confirmed cases of measles in Massachusetts this year, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Measles, which can be prevented with a vaccine, can be dangerous to pregnant women, very young children, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems. Early symptoms include rising fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and — after two to four days — a rash.
Most people have received the measles vaccine, health experts say, but adults born after 1957 may want to check their records to be sure they received the required two vaccinations. O’Leary urged people who believe they may have measles to call their doctors first before showing up in their offices, where they might infect others.
A “measles notification” announcement posted last week on Smith’s website states that “Visitors to Smith over the next few weeks may wish to check their immunization status before spending time on campus.”
Information about measles is available on the city Health Department website at www.northamptonma.gov/245/Health.