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Arizona health officials confirm measles case in Maricopa County

Histopathology of measles pneumonia. (Centers for Disease Control Photo)

PHOENIX — A case of the measles related to the ongoing outbreak in Arizona has been confirmed in Maricopa County, health officials said Tuesday.

While the case is the first this year to occur outside of Pinal County, the Arizona Department of Health said it has not expanded its list of potential exposure sites. The person in Maricopa County is no longer contagious.

The Maricopa County case means Arizona has confirmed 14 cases of the disease during the latest outbreak.

Last week, officials confirmed two cases of measles in Pinal County that stemmed from an outbreak at the Eloy Detention Center.

Officials first confirmed two cases of the disease in late May. That number quickly hit 11 after measles spread to both inmates and workers at the detention center.

State and county health officials said they’re working to stop new transmissions by isolating patients, vaccinating people detained in the privately-run facility and trying to identify people who were at locations the four infected workers visited.

The outbreak began when an infected inmate was brought to the facility and spread the disease to a worker, who had been vaccinated but caught the disease anyway. Health officials put out the first warning of the initial two cases last Thursday.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is working with county officials to try to identify people exposed outside the facility. They’re also urging people who may have visited any of the identified locations to come forward and be alert to measles symptoms, which include fever, red, watery eyes, cough and runny nose and is followed by a rash that is red, raised, and blotchy. The rash begins on the face at the hairline and moves down the body and may last five to six days.

“People who have a rash and fever must call their health care provider or emergency department before going to let them know they may have measles,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state health department, said in a statement. “It is vital to help stop the further spread of the disease.”

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable viral illness and symptoms can appear up to 21 days after exposure.

Vaccination prevents about 95 percent of cases, Pinal County spokesman Joe Pyritz said, and the low numbers currently seen in a facility that can house more than 1,500 detainees shows that it is effective. The first worker who was sickened was vaccinated, Pyritz said.

“There are a lot of people who have been exposed, and then we’ve had a few breakdowns” in immunity, Pyritz said. “Not many, but a few.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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