As the number of confirmed measles cases in the U.S. reaches the second-highest level since 2000, even hospitals aren’t safe from the infectious disease. On Wednesday, the University of California Davis Medical Center reported that over 200 patients in the emergency room may have been exposed to measles thanks to one unvaccinated seven-year-old girl.
According to the Calaveras County Health Department, the young girl was infected during an overseas trip. She arrived at the UC Davis emergency room on March 17 but wasn’t diagnosed with measles until March 19, potentially contaminating other patients in the meantime.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the UC Davis Children’s Hospital explained to NBC News that the incident is proof of how difficult it is to diagnose and protect against measles, particularly when the anti-vaxx movement is so prevalent.
“Most cases of measles occur eight to 12 days after exposure, but it can occur up to three weeks after exposure,” he said. “Even vaccinated individuals can get measles because the vaccine is not 100 percent perfect. We need a very high vaccination rate because when measles is introduced to communities that have parents who don’t immunize their children, these clusters of cases can occur.”
To avoid a similar incident moving forward, Dr. Blumberg advises parents who suspect their kids may have measles to contact hospitals before arriving. He told NBC, “What we can do in those kinds of situations is let them in through the side door and place them immediately into an isolation room,” adding that “we don’t want them in the waiting room where potential exposures may occur.”