Seeing Red: First Adult Case Of Measles Reported In Pa.

May 3, 2019

Measles infections have been making their way across the U.S., the highest rate seen in 25 years, and the first adult case of measles this year was just confirmed in Pennsylvania.

An unvaccinated adult recently traveled internationally, was treated at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on April 29 and is recovering at home, according to the Allegheny County Health Department.

Because the adult has potentially exposed others, the health department is urging anyone who is susceptible to measles or becomes ill with symptoms of measles to contact his or her primary care provider immediately. Pennsylvania Health Department spokesman Nate Wardle said the case in Pennsylvania is not linked to any ongoing measles outbreak in the U.S. and there is “no reason for people to be concerned about an outbreak in Pennsylvania at this time.”

Geisinger pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Swathi Gowtham, however, said everybody who is not vaccinated should be concerned about the measles and “it’s only a matter of time before we are dealing with it in our area.”

While there have been no confirmed cases in Luzerne or Lackawanna counties, Gowtham cautioned measles is “one of the most infectious things known to man.”

“If you’re in a room with someone with the measles and that person is coughing or even just breathing and leaves the room and you came in two hours later, you’re at risk if you’re not vaccinated,” Gowtham said. “That’s what makes us infectious disease doctors scared about measles.”

Wardle and Gowtham stressed it is essential that all Pennsylvanians from infants to older adults are up-to-date on all recommended immunizations. That includes measles, mumps, polio and whooping cough.

“Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect yourself from serious, life-threatening diseases,” Wardle said. “Getting your vaccinations can help protect those around you, including those with compromised immune systems who cannot get vaccinated.”

People who have refused vaccinations are at “exceedingly high risk” for contracting the measles, Gowtham said. Before the vaccine became available in the 1960s, she said about 500 people who got the measles would die each year.


As of April 26, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 704 measles have been confirmed in 22 states.

The CDC updates the data every Monday and the latest report did not include the recent case in Pennsylvania.

According to the CDC, measles cases increased by 78 from last week. It’s the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.

Other states that have reported measles cases to the CDC are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee and Washington.

On Wednesday, health officials said a cruise ship was quarantined at the Caribbean port of St. Lucia because of a confirmed measles case.

Officials ordered 300 passengers and crew members not to leave the ship after determining one female crew member had contracted measles.

The highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease spreads through coughing, sneezing or other contact with the mucus or saliva of an infected person. Symptoms typically appear one to three weeks after infection and include rash, high fever, cough and red, watery eyes, according to the health department.

Wardle said everyone can get vaccinated for the measles, as long as they are over age 1 and do not have a medical reason as to why they would be unable to get vaccinated such as cancer or a compromised immune system. The vaccine is first given around 1 year of age with a second dose at ages 4 to 6.

“Getting vaccinated as a child should protect you from the measles as a teen and adult,” he said. “But if you were not vaccinated as a child, you should work with your health care provider to become vaccinated.”

As for parents who are unable to vaccinate their babies, Wardle said they should prevent being in situations where their child may be around the virus and should encourage others around them to be vaccinated.

When parents make decisions not to vaccinate their children, she said those decisions could affect other children as well. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend vaccinating children and the potential risks are small, she said.

The CDC considers you protected from measles if you have received the measles vaccine or if a laboratory confirmed that you had measles at some point in your life or that you are immune to measles.

According to the health department, adults born during or after 1957 who have not had two doses of vaccine or documented disease should be vaccinated with one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. The vaccine also can prevent infection if given within three days of exposure.

“Anybody who should have gotten a routine vaccine and hasn’t should get vaccinated,” Gowtham said.

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570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh