A University of Massachusetts Boston professor is suspected of having measles, the fifth confirmed or suspected case of the highly contagious disease to be reported in the past two weeks, city health authorities said tonight.
The faculty member, who is in his 40s and teaches about 45 students, informed university officials yesterday that he had been diagnosed with a possible case of the respiratory illness, heralded by a fever, cough, runny nose, and telltale rash.
The university and the Boston Public Health Commission are telling students, faculty, and staff who might have had contact with the professor and who have not been vaccinated or previously exposed to the disease to remain close to home for the next three weeks. It can take that long for doctors to be certain that someone is not carrying the disease.
"Although we believe a limited number of people may have been exposed, we encourage our entire campus community to take precautions," UMass Boston administrators said in a statement.
Measles vaccine is being offered by the university's health services office during regular hours in hopes of forestalling a possible outbreak.
There was no immediate evidence that the professor, who was not identified because of patient confidentiality laws, had contact with a worker at the French Consulate in the Back Bay who tested positive last month for the disease.
There's also no evidence that the professor had traveled outside the United States recently, said Ann Scales, chief spokeswoman for the Public Health Commission.
"There's a lot of measles going on in different parts of the world, and we're an international city," Scales said.
The only confirmed case of measles so far involves the French Consulate worker, who arrived in Boston in late January. Three Boston-area adults were identified last week as having symptoms consistent with measles. Laboratory tests are being performed on those patients, as well as the UMass professor, to confirm that they have the disease; measles symptoms can mimic those of other infectious diseases.
Most people in the United States have little reason to worry about catching measles. Younger Americans have been widely vaccinated against the disease, and most older Americans have natural immunity because they were exposed to the virus in an era when the disease widely circulated.
Immigrants and travelers from nations where vaccination is less routine are considered at risk, as are people who received vaccine in the 1960s that was less potent than later formulations.
Disease trackers respond swiftly to potential outbreaks because measles spreads with such speed and ease, threatening those who remain vulnerable. Last week, Boston health authorities immunized 205 people in the Back Bay office building where the French Consulate has offices.
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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