The state Center for Disease Control is investigating a travel-associated case of measles in Franklin County, marking the first such confirmed instance in Maine of the highly contagious respiratory disease in two decades.

The measles case was confirmed Monday at the Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory, according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennett. The last reported measles case in Maine was diagnosed in 1997.

State officials refused to identify the person associated with the recent measles case, but said the person had contracted the virus during overseas travel. Farmington hospital officials said a female was involved, but neither they nor Bennett would say if the case involved a child or an adult.

No other measles cases have been reported or are under investigation in Maine, but officials are concerned enough about the potential exposure to urge people to watch for symptoms. Anyone potentially exposed who experiences symptoms should call a primary care provider before going to an office or hospital so preparations can be made to prevent further spread of the virus, Bennett said.

“If it is, in fact, measles, we don’t want (patients) in any waiting room,” Bennett said. “We don’t want them to expose others.”

Bennett urged anyone eligible for a measles vaccination to get one. The virus is highly infectious and unvaccinated people have up to a 90 percent chance of contracting the disease if exposed. Last year there were about 70 cases of measles in the U.S., down from 188 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were already 100 suspected cases by May this year.

Measles, which is spread by coughing or sneezing, is a viral disease characterized by high fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and red eyes caused by the measles virus. The rash typically starts at the head before moving down the body and presents as flat or raised red spots. The infection can cause severe health complications including pneumonia, encephalitis and death. An infected person is contagious from four days before their rash starts through four days afterward.

The virus remains alive for up to two hours on surfaces and in the air after an infected person leaves an area. The incubation period is typically 10 to 14 days but can be as long as 21 days. State officials said the public may have been potentially exposed to measles at the following times and locations: from 4 to 9 p.m. June 15 at the Narrow Gauge Cinema in Farmington, from 7 to 11 p.m. June 15 at Grantlee’s Tavern and Grill in Farmington, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 17 at the Farmington Farmers Market, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 18 at the Kingfield Woodsman, from noon to 4 p.m. June 18 at the Restaurant la Chocolateria in Quebec City, from 8 to 10:30 p.m. June 18 in the Franklin Memorial Hospital emergency room in Farmington, and from noon to 12:30 p.m. June 19 in the Franklin Memorial Hospital laboratory in Farmington.

At Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, where the patient arrived Sunday for care, staff membrers were checking immunization records for any personnel who might have been exposed, said Becky Wood, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services.

Typically, Wood said, when a patient arrives with coughing symptoms, staff members will put a mask on the patient and isolate the person for treatment, using dedicated equipment to ensure no further transmission. Each staff member is required to provide immunization records when hired, but Wood said anyone who might be experiencing symptoms should contact his or her primary care provider. If symptoms are consistent with the disease, testing may be performed to determine whether a person is infected. A person without symptoms should not be tested.

The measles vaccine — which treats measles, mumps and rubella — is highly effective and is widely used around the world, state officials said. Typically, the vaccine is administered to children before they’re 1 year old and a second dose is usually administered from age 4 to age 6. Officials said any suspected cases of measles should be reported immediately by phone to 800-821-5821.

In Maine, there have been efforts in recent years to expand the number of children vaccinated for the disease. In the 2015-2016 school year, 400 more grade school children received the measles vaccine than in the year prior.

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