Published on April 14, 2009

Hospital Officials Encourage Community Awareness as Local Measles Cases Increase in Montgomery County

Rockville, MD - With four measles cases now confirmed in Montgomery County, doctors from Shady Grove Adventist Hospital are working to spread the word about the symptoms, risks and transmission of the illness, which was once considered eradicated from the United States.

Doctors from Shady Grove's Emergency Department identified Montgomery County's first case of measles in more than a decade in mid- March. A number of measles cases have also been confirmed in Pennsylvania.

"We want to help the community understand the signs and symptoms of measles," said Dr. Gaurov Dayal, Chief Medical Officer at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. "We recognize that not all members of our diverse community may have had the measles vaccination and could be at risk for this contagious illness."

Measles is a highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the rubeolo virus, which can be serious in certain populations such as the elderly, young children and pregnant women. Due to the highly contagious nature of measles, hospital officials are encouraging anyone in the community with symptoms to first call a physician office, clinic or hospital before they arrive for treatment to let them know that measles is a possibility.

As cases of local measles increased last week, officials from Adventist HealthCare called together a meeting of local hospital leaders and health officials to discuss ways to help handle this measles outbreak and educate the community about the illness.

The Measles, Mumps, Rubella vaccine (MMR) has eradicated measles in most developed countries. In 2000, the United States declared itself measles-free. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the past nine years, sporadic cases of the measles have popped up around the country, particularly over the past year. Between January and July 2008, there were 131 cases of the measles compared with only 63 cases between 2000 and 2007.

Children generally receive two doses of the MMR vaccine - the first dose at 12-15 months and another between four and six years. In recent years, concerns about a link between vaccines and autism have caused some parents to avoid vaccinations for their children, including the MMR.

"It is important for everyone in our community to understand what measles looks like and how easily the illness can spread so that we can work together to contain this local outbreak." said Michael Anne Preas, Director of Infection Prevention at Shady Grove. "Increased education and knowledge about the symptoms and spread of measles will help us prevent further spread in the community"

It can take up to 21 days after exposure to measles for a person to develop symptoms, which can include:

  • Rash that starts on the face and neck and then spreads;
  • High fever;
  • Runny nose;
  • Red, watery eyes;
  • Cough (can be similar to croup);
  • Small red spots, with blue and white centers inside of the mouth.

Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, a not-for-profit, acute care facility with 293 licensed beds, will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2009. Shady Grove offers a broad range of excellent health services including emergency care; high-risk obstetrical and neonatal care; cardiac and vascular interventional care; oncology care; several surgical specialties; and a number of specialized services for children, including the first Pediatric Emergency Department in Montgomery County and the only Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in the county.