Health officials warn of measles exposure at several St. Louis County locations

ST. LOUIS, MO — The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is warning people about possible measles exposure at several locations in St. Louis County.

Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness transmitted by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing.

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health said the exposure happened on March 13 or March 14, 2018. The individual visited The Magic House on March 13.

“We really want to make sure the community is aware that there was a case of measles because it is contagious,” said Melissa Swank, Community Health Manager at the Magic House.

Known locations where exposures may have also occurred on March 13 are Racanelli’s New York Pizzeria in Kirkwood and Homewood Suites in Chesterfield. The only known location where exposure may have occurred on March 14 is Homewood Suites in Chesterfield, Missouri.

The Magic House said it works to stop the transmission of illness among visitors. Even if the patient coughed or sneezed experts said the place was free of disease not long after the patient left the premises. The illness doesn’t live long outside the human body.

“It can last for almost two hours or up to two hours, but once that time period past there’s really no risk,” Swank said.

The Magic House posted this statement about the issue to their Facebook page:

"The Magic House was contacted by The St. Louis County Department of Public Health to alert us of a possible measles exposure in St. Louis and The Magic House. Please know, our top priority is the safety and health of our visitors and we are strong supporters of following the recommended vaccine schedule. To be clear, (and as it is listed on the CDC website), the measles virus can live for up to 2 hours in the airspace where the infected person has coughed or sneezed. Since the person visited The Magic House, St. Louis Children's Museum on Tuesday, March 13 between 11am and 3pm, only people who visited between 11am and 5pm would have had the possibility of exposure. If you have had the MMR vaccine series or have had the measles, your risk is extremely low of contracting the illness. If you visited during this time and are concerned, we recommend contacting your health professional."

Symptoms of measles generally include a rash that appears 7-21 days after exposure. Measles typically begins with:

  • A high fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash starts to appear. The rash usually looks like flat red spots that break out first on the face and spread downward to the neck, trunk, arms, legs, and feet.

At the St. Louis County Health Department, director of communicable diseases Dr. Fredrick Echols said if you’ve been fully vaccinated against measles, it’s extremely doubtful you’d contract the illness.

"We want to protect other members of our population, so by giving the providers a heads up they can secure an entryway so the other patients aren’t exposed,” Echols said.

But with the rise of the anti-vaccination movement, some parents are advocating for common sense.

“I understand if you don’t want to vaccinate your child, that’s your choice,” said Bryan Boys, a parent. “But there’s also a community around here, and you’re risking other children’s health if you don’t vaccinate.”

In rare cases, measles can cause deafness, brain damage, and even death.

“I’m for vaccination. I think it protects the children and keeps everybody safe,” said Kim Dodds, a parent.

People who may have been exposed to measles should contact their healthcare provider if they develop cold-like symptoms with a fever and/or rash as described above.

Health care providers should isolate suspected measles case-patients and immediately report suspected cases to the local public health agency or to DHSS at 1-573-751-6113 or 1-800-392-0272 outside normal business hours.