Following Warning, Lowell Community HC Tests Hundreds for Measles

November 14, 2018

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LOWELL -- After a pediatric patient was diagnosed with measles last week at the Lowell Community Health Center, residents flooded the health center to make sure they had not contracted the highly-contagious respiratory disease.

More than 350 people have responded to requests from the health center -- coming in to determine their measles immunity or for testing and immunization.

So far, the health center reports that no one else has tested positive for measles.

Officials credit a coordinated response by the health center on Jackson Street, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Lowell General Hospital and the Lowell Health Department.

“This is an incredible community effort, and we are grateful to everyone who has stepped up to address this event,” Lowell Community Health Center CEO Susan West Levine said in a statement. “It speaks to our community’s strong commitment to public health and safety.”

The pediatric patient was diagnosed with measles on Thursday. The patient, who is now recovering at home, had recently traveled internationally.

Because the patient was immediately isolated, areas of exposure were limited to the pharmacy, main lobby, pediatrics department and lab between 12:53 p.m. and 5:22 p.m. on Thursday. Officials estimate that 340 people were in those areas at that time, many of whom are not at risk because they had immunity due to vaccination or previous exposure. In addition, anyone born before 1957 and born in the U.S. is likely immune.

After the diagnosis, the health center created a phone bank -- making hundreds of calls, urging patients to come in for testing or immunization.

The health center is now working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Lowell Health Department to assure that everyone exposed who needs the vaccine receives it. This includes visitors who accompanied patients, or who were in the lab or pharmacy.

Measles is caused by a virus that’s spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. Symptoms include a cough, fever, runny nose, and red or watery eyes. A few days later, a red, blotchy rash appears, starting at the scalp and traveling down the body.

Someone with measles is contagious for four days prior to rash onset and four days after the rash appears. Those who were not previously vaccinated and were exposed but opt not to be to vaccinated must exclude themselves from public activities, including work or school, from day 5 through day 21 of exposure.

For more information about testing and immunization, call Lowell Community Health Center at 978-937-9700.

For more information about measles, the public may call their primary care doctor, the Lowell City Health Department at 978-674-4010 during regular business hours, or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617-983-6800 (24 hours a day).

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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