June 25, 2024

Measles Outbreak Grows to 9 Cases in Philadelphia Area

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Jan 18, 2024

Additional Potential Exposures Reported as Health Officials Scramble to Contain Virus

The measles outbreak in the Philadelphia area continues to grow, with health officials now confirming 9 cases in the city and surrounding counties. The outbreak, which was first detected in early January, has prompted warnings of potential new exposures in daycares, schools, hospitals and even public transportation.

Health experts say the outbreak originated from a traveler who returned from overseas infected with measles. Measles is highly contagious and can spread easily among unvaccinated individuals. While measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, cases have been rising in recent years largely due to vaccine hesitancy.

“Measles is extremely contagious to others, so high vaccination rates are important to limiting spread,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “I urge all Philadelphians to check if they and their families are up-to-date on measles vaccine.”

New Potential Exposures Reported

Along with the 9 confirmed cases, health officials say hundreds may have been exposed to the virus at various locations since late December. Potential exposure sites now include:

  • Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, DE on 1/4
  • Multiple SEPTA bus routes in Philadelphia on 1/4
  • Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, PA on 1/9
  • Abington Hospital in Abington, PA on 1/9
  • An undisclosed daycare facility in the city

Anyone who visited these locations on the dates indicated should monitor themselves for symptoms like fever, runny nose, watery eyes and rash. Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk of severe complications from measles.

“If you were exposed and are not up-to-date on measles vaccine, contact your healthcare provider right away,” said acting state physician general Dr. Denise Johnson. “The MMR vaccine is safe and extremely effective at protecting you and your family against measles.”

Health Officials Offering Free Vaccines

In response to the outbreak, health officials have opened several free measles vaccination clinics around Philadelphia for anyone needing an MMR vaccine. The clinics are located at:

  • 1500 Market St, Philadelphia
  • 1101 Market St, Philadelphia
  • 1300 Lombard St, Philadelphia

No insurance or ID is required to receive a free vaccine at these walk-in clinics. Health officials say the single-dose MMR vaccine is about 97% effective at preventing measles infection.

In addition, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is offering free vaccines by appointment to children in need.

Location Dates/Times
1500 Market St M-F, 9am-5pm
1101 Market St M-F, 10am-6pm
1300 Lombard St M-Sat, 8am-8pm

“We want to eliminate any barriers for Philadelphians to get protected against measles,” Dr. Bettigole said.

9 Confirmed Cases So Far

The first two measles cases in the outbreak were reported on January 4th in a pair of Philadelphia siblings. Since then, at least 9 total cases have been confirmed through lab testing: 5 in Philadelphia, 2 in Delaware County and 2 in Montgomery County. Several suspected cases are still undergoing testing.

All nine patients were either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated against measles at the time of infection. About 95% of people need to be immune to measles through vaccination or prior infection in order to prevent outbreaks, a threshold some communities are now falling short of.

“Achieving high enough levels of immunity through vaccination is crucial for elimination of measles,” said Philadelphia Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Caroline Johnson. “This outbreak clearly indicates gaps still remain.”

Potential Spread Through Daycare Facility

One potential driver of the outbreak has been linked to an undisclosed daycare facility in the city, according to health officials. Earlier this month, the parent of an infected toddler continued sending their child to daycare despite being told to quarantine at home due to measles exposure.

This breach of protocol led to the virus spreading among additional children and staff at the daycare. Health officials have not released the name of the facility but say contact tracing efforts are ongoing to inform families of possible exposure.

Calls for Parents to Vaccinate

The outbreak has renewed calls for parents get themselves and their children vaccinated, especially if unsure of their immunity status.

The CDC currently recommends children receive two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first at 12-15 months old and the second around age 4. Teens and adults should also have documentation of at least two MMR doses, with the first typically given at 12 months old.

Pregnant women, infants and people with weakened immune systems should especially avoid exposure during an outbreak like this. Complications from measles infection can be serious, even deadly in some cases.

“This outbreak is an important reminder about the dangers posed by measles and the fundamental role vaccines play in protecting our communities,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Denise Johnson. “If you or your family members are unsure of your vaccination status, contact your doctor right away or take advantage of the free vaccine clinics available.”

What Led to the Outbreak

According to health officials, the origins of the outbreak trace back to an infected international traveler visiting the Philadelphia area in late December. Beginning in early January, this traveler unknowingly transmitted the virus to others out in the community while contagious.

Several of those early cases occurred in unvaccinated or under-vaccinated individuals, allowing measles to gain a foothold and spread. So far in 2024, larger outbreaks have already hit communities in Ohio, Hawaii and California stemming from similar imported measles cases.

“Every time measles finds its way into our country, it threatens our progress toward elimination,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “This outbreak demonstrates that even brief pockets of under-vaccination can spark serious impacts for public health.”

What Happens Next

Health officials say their goals right now are to contain the outbreak through contact tracing, isolation of new cases, and expanded access to vaccines. However, additional exposures and infections are likely in coming weeks before the outbreak runs its course.

Given measles’ extreme contagiousness, health experts say small outbreaks often grow substantially before waning, usually lasting 2-3 months in total.

“The next few weeks are critical in our efforts to limit the size and length of this outbreak,” said acting physician general Dr. Denise Johnson on Wednesday. “We continue prioritizing vaccination and isolation of new cases to protect Philadelphians, especially infants and others who cannot get vaccinated.”

With the free measles vaccination clinics and appointment options now available, health officials are also hopeful new infections will ultimately remain limited.

“The single most important thing Philadelphians can do is ensure they and their family members are up-to-date on measles vaccination,” said Health Commissioner Bettigole. “High enough immunity levels are what will finally bring this outbreak to an end.”




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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