Back in mid-December, three children were hospitalized with measles after passing through the Denver airport and the emergency department of Children’s Hospital Colorado. The concern was that others might have picked up the disease at those locations.
But Bernadette Albanese, an epidemiologist with the Tri-County Health Department, said there have been no confirmed cases.
“Knock on wood,” she added.
Measles is very contagious, so the cases set public health officials in motion to track down anyone who might have been infected. Albanese said her department and other public health officials identified 258 people that might have been exposed at the hospital alone, including at least 90 children.
“Of those, in total 88% were felt we either had enough information on their vaccination history that we knew they’d been vaccinated or thought it was likely they’d been vaccinated or had [measles] in the past, so that left about 20 individuals that we would consider susceptible,” she said, adding that some of those people were quarantined and babies under a year old received preventative treatment.
Symptoms of measles usually appear within one and three weeks after exposure, so if someone did pick up the disease, they would have gotten sick by now. Albanese said it’s possible that people were infected at the airport, and then left Colorado before becoming ill.
“Every time this happens it’s a huge, huge, huge response,” said Albanese.
This time around that included five local health departments, the state health department, and, she said, “Hours and hours of work to piece together what had happened, piece together the exposures in Colorado, do all the communication, do all the follow up, get little babies their shots of immunoglobulin. It’s an enormous effort.”
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.