Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
DPH Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The Connecticut Department of Health on Friday confirmed the state’s fourth case of measles this year — a school-aged child in Fairfield County.

“The public health investigation of this case has determined that the child was not infectious while at school,” DPH said in a press release.

The latest case is not related to the previous three cases in the state that were reported between January and April.

“We are monitoring and investigating this case very closely, including working with our local health departments and medical providers to follow up with any individuals that may have been exposed to measles,” DPH Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell said. “Science tells us that the single best thing anyone can do to protect themselves from this highly contagious virus is to get vaccinated.”

Coleman-Mitchell said this latest case coupled with “declining statewide immunization numbers for measles, is exactly why Governor Lamont and I are recommending repeal of non-medical exemptions for vaccination.”

“If you have a fever and a rash and you think you might have measles, you should avoid public settings and call your healthcare provider before going directly to a healthcare facility so steps can be taken to avoid possibly exposing others,” she added.

According to DPH, a typical case of measles begins with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes (conjunctivitis), and sore throat. Three to five days after the start of these symptoms, a red or reddish-brown rash appears, usually starting on a person’s face at the hairline and spreading downward to the entire body. At the time the rash appears, a person’s fever may spike to more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The rash typically lasts at least a few days and then disappears in the same order. People with measles may be contagious up to 4 days before the rash appears and for four days after the day the rash appears.

Earlier this week, the DPH reported that there were 149 schools in Connecticut with kindergartens and seventh grades with immunization rates below the 95% level recommended by the CDC to achieve herd immunity. That’s 40 more schools below the recommended level than the previous school year.

“We’ve always known there’s a risk associated with lower vaccination rates,” Dr. Jody Terranova, the immunization representative for the Connecticut’s American Academy of Pediatrics, said. “An outbreak starts with one case and we hope this just stays one case and doesn’t turn into something.”

Terranova added they wish the child a speedy recovery.

“News of the fourth outbreak this year is very troubling,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said. “My thoughts are with the child and the family from Fairfield County, right in our own backyard, during this difficult time. The health of our residents is at stake from a completely preventable disease. It is imperative we remove non-medical exemptions to increase vaccination rates statewide.”

Dawn Jolly, co-founder of CT Freedom Alliance, said there are still more unanswered questions.

“At this point we don’t know where the virus was contracted, whether the child was vaccinated for the measles, whether it was a wild strain or a vaccine strain, or even whether the child attends school in the state,” Jolly said in a statement. “It is therefore premature and inaccurate to declare that this case provides proof of the need to strip thousands of Connecticut children of their constitutional rights to education and the free exercise of religion. Commissioner Coleman-Mitchell is abusing her position to create pandemonium in order to further the political agenda of the Governor and Democratic leadership.”

Brian Festa, another member of the CT Freedom Alliance, said he doesn’t understand why it was fine to release the vaccination status of children in Connecticut on Monday, but not okay to say whether this child was vaccinated.

The Department of Public Health has not said whether the child was vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children get two doses of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 through 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age. One dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus. Two doses are about 97% effective.

Adults should have at least one dose of MMR vaccine. Adults born in the U.S. before 1957 are considered immune to measles from past exposures, but in situations where exposure to measles is likely, these adults may benefit from an additional dose of MMR vaccine, according to DPH.

In 2019, the United States has seen the largest increase in the number of measles cases in the last 25 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1,250 people in 31 states had contracted measles between January 1 and Oct. 3, including more than 1,000 in the neighboring state of New York. More than 75% of the cases this year are linked to outbreaks in New York.