February 25, 2011 / 8:59 PM / 7 years ago

Boston officials testing three more for measles

BOSTON (Reuters) - Three cases of measles are now suspected in Boston among residents who may have crossed paths with a 24-year-old woman whose diagnosis was confirmed earlier this month, health officials said on Friday.

Measles is a highly contagious airborne virus spread person to person. Officials have advised that the original carrier ate out regularly and rode the subway to work.

One of the suspected cases, a woman in her 30s, ate at a restaurant in the same office building where the carrier worked at the French consulate and sometimes ate.

The second suspected case, a woman in her 20s, lives near the consulate worker. Links to the third possible case are still being investigated, officials said.

Test results on the three are expected early next week.

Boston health officials have been scrambling to contain the spread of the illness since the first case was confirmed a week ago. Some 180 people have been vaccinated at two free clinics held at the office building that houses the French consulate and dozens of companies.

Measles looks and feels like a cold initially but later a rash develops on the face and spreads to the rest of the body. People with measles are contagious four days before and four days after the tell-tale rash appears.

Health officials said the consulate employee was at work while contagious.

At the consulate, employees had to provide proof of vaccination in order to return to work and those without proof were ordered quarantined at home, said consulate spokeswoman Nathalie Bastin.

Boston’s infectious disease team has also spent time following up with other people who may have had contact with the young woman, including other patients at a health clinic where she sought treatment.

Measles is a leading cause of death among young children in the developing world, but is seldom seen in the United States where vaccination is required for all school children.

Dr. Anita Barry, director of the infectious disease bureau at the Boston Public Health Commission, said measles are rare in Boston, where a large percentage of the workforce is employed at health care facilities and there is a concentration of colleges and universities that require immunization.

Sporadic cases have occurred among foreign visitors or U.S. citizens infected while traveling abroad. The consulate worker “almost certainly got the disease overseas,” Barry said.

The most recent large outbreak of measles in the United States was in 2008, where more than 130 cases were reported in 15 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Ros Krasny and Jerry Norton

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