Health officials identify additional measles exposure locations

Two confirmed cases of the measles in Massachusetts have been identified as a resident of Framingham and a resident of Spencer who works in Framingham.

In addition to Trader Joe’s supermarket, state public health officials Tuesday afternoon identified Samba Steak & Sushi restaurant in Framingham as the second location where the public was exposed to a confirmed case of the measles on President’s Day weekend. Health officials have identified three Framingham exposure locations so far: Trader Joe’s, Samba restaurant, and Bose Corporation headquarters, where the Spencer resident works.

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Locations of public measles exposure.
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A public health alert from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tuesday afternoon warned that people may have been exposed between the hours of 5:30 and 9 p.m. at Samba Steak & Sushi along Route 9 on Saturday, Feb. 15. The restaurant is a little more than a mile from the Trader Joe’s, also located on Route 9, which was identified yesterday as a location where the public was exposed.

The Framingham resident went to Trader Joe’s on both Feb. 15 and 16 “for a significant amount of time,” said Roberto Santamaria, the deputy director at the Framingham Health Department, in an interview Tuesday afternoon. Health officials are warning residents to be wary of potential exposure if they shopped at Trader Joe’s from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

“Once it’s exhaled, the measles virus can remain suspended in the air for up to two hours,” said Dr. Deborah Yokoe, the medical director for infection control at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, in an email exchange Tuesday. “Beyond that two-hour period, there is no remaining risk, and there are no steps that need to be taken to clean the environment.”

The Framingham resident also visited Samba restaurant for dinner on Feb. 15, but Santamaria said the “minimal” exposure was limited to restaurant employees who came into direct contact with the infected individual.

State health officials notified Framingham Health Department of the confirmed cases on Friday, Feb. 21. That same day, the Framingham health department became aware that public exposures had occurred the previous weekend at Trader Joe’s and Samba Steak & Sushi, and health officials notified managers of both businesses where they displayed physical notices.

Santamaria said that the Spencer resident only went to work at Bose Corporation in Framingham during the four days he or she was infectious, which limits the public’s exposure to this individual.

Vaccination against the measles, usually given in the two-shot MMR vaccine, is only effective at preventing the measles up to 72 hours after an individual is exposed, said Dr. Greg Wallace, an infectious disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a phone interview Tuesday.

Vaccination clinics were held at Trader Joe’s on Feb. 22 and Feb. 24. The Framingham health department held a vaccination clinic at Samba restaurant Tuesday evening at 5 p.m.

“When it comes to something like measles, there is very high vaccination rates in Framingham,” said Santamaria when asked about the timeline of alerting the public to the measles exposure. “We had to also confirm where this case was. If we release information prematurely, then identifying the case could become more of an issue. Also, in terms of public response, we don’t want to cause panic.”

The measles is a highly contagious disease, but as previously reported, most people in the United States are immune to the measles because they either have had the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, or they were born before 1957 and have developed immunity over their lifetime.

“It’s very contagious, but the vaccine is also very effective,” said Dr. Wallace. “For those of us who are vaccinated, the exposure is not really a concern, but if you haven’t been vaccinated and are exposed, it’s very contagious.”

Since the public exposure occurred more than nine days ago, this is the time when those exposed to the measles might start to display symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes.

“If you were exposed, and have started to show symptoms, contact healthcare provider or health department,” said Dr. Wallace. “You should not go to emergency room or waiting room. Instead, call ahead and they can make arrangements to meet you.”

At this point, it’s really about tracing the locations of the potential exposure to the measles and containing confirmed cases so that more exposures do not occur, said Dr. Wallace.