Getting vaccinated can help stop measles from spreading
St. Joseph Medical Center is among seven new sites where people may have been exposed to measles during an outbreak that has sickened 10 Missourians so far.
Ericka Beeler, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph, said the exposure occurred not in the 310-bed hospital's inpatient unit, but in a pediatric practice that rents space on the medical center grounds at 1000 Carondelet Drive in south Kansas City.
“We sanitized everything appropriately and did everything we could once we were notified of the positive case,” Beeler said.
The patient with measles went through the main lobby of the medical center and used elevators to get to the pediatric practice, but Beeler said the inpatient tower has a separate entrance and elevators.
Beeler said the clinics at the medical center, working with local and state health departments, followed standard protocols in notifying staff and visitors of the exposure risk.
Health officials are warning anyone who used the main entrance and elevators from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 18 to watch for early symptoms of measles, like high fever, cough, runny nose or watery eyes, especially if they aren't vaccinated.
The 10 cases in Missouri are not related to a separate measles outbreak that started in a Johnson County day care last month. That has sickened 18 Kansans (14 in Johnson County, three in Linn County and one in Miami County) so far and is the largest outbreak in that state since 1990.
The 10 Missouri cases include three students who attend Liberty Public Schools. Clay County Public Health Center has said everyone who was at South Valley Middle School, which has almost 800 students, on April 18 may have been exposed.
The school district has instituted Missouri's exclusion policy, which holds unvaccinated children out of school for weeks when there's the potential for them to contract an infectious disease. But the district has so far refused to say what the school's vaccination rate is.
"We are not comfortable releasing data about this simply due to our concern around student confidentiality," district spokesman Dallas Ackerman said via email. "We are talking about a very small number of students at that school who are not vaccinated, and we do not want do anything to jeopardize the students being identified by classmates, etc."
With two doses, the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine, is about 97 percent effective at preventing measles.
But the illness is highly contagious and can be spread several days before the telltale red rash that follows the other, more ambiguous symptoms.
That has made it difficult to keep it out of hospitals and doctors' offices during the two outbreaks that have hit the Kansas City metro area in the last two months.
In addition to St. Joseph Medical Center, the University of Kansas Hospital, Children's Mercy Hospital in Overland Park and Olathe Health clinics in La Cygne and Mound City have also been potential exposure sites.
Robyn Livingston, a Children's Mercy doctor who specializes in infectious disease, said it's particularly concerning when measles shows up in medical settings unannounced, because hospitals often serve patients who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons.
“If you think your child has measles, don’t just show up to one of our locations," Livingston said. "Which has happened.”
Livingston said it's imperative that people who suspect measles call ahead, so doctors and hospitals can arrange to segregate them from others.
Though most people who get measles fully recover, it can cause potentially fatal complications like pneumonia and, more rarely, encephalitis.
The other new exposure sites are:
▪ Noon to 2 p.m. April 12 at Casey’s General Store, 112 Branch St., Platte City, Mo.
▪ 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. April 12 at Hy-Vee, 207 N.E. Englewood Road, Kansas City
▪ 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. April 12 at CommunityAmerica Credit Union, 207 N.E. Englewood Road, Kansas City
▪ 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. April 12 at Jasmine Mini Mart, 406 N.W. Englewood Road, Kansas City
▪ 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. April 14 at The Children’s Place – Zona Rosa Town Center, 7220 N.W. 86th Place, Kansas City.
▪ 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. April 14 at Cosentino's New Mark Sunfresh, 10225 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City.
▪ 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. April 15 at Cosentino's New Mark Sunfresh, 10225. N Oak Trafficway, Kansas City.
Previously announced, but still active, exposure sites are:
▪ 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 6 at the KCI Expo–Center Midwest Parent Educators Vendor Hall, 11730 N.W. Ambassador Drive.
▪ 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 10 at Nebraska Furniture Mart, 1601 Village West Parkway in Kansas City, Kan.
▪ 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 8 in the lobby or sanctuary of the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church at 13300 Kenneth Road, Leawood (related to the Kansas outbreak).