An example of the rash caused by measles. Credit: Photo courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people who visited two Portland area businesses last Wednesday they may have been exposed to measles.

The agency announced Tuesday that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said a Bay State resident with measles was present in the state and that people who at the Skin Clinic in Falmouth, between 10:55 a.m. and 1:05 p.m., and Maine Centers for Healthcare Endoscopy in Westbrook, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., may have been exposed.

The center urged anyone who may have been at either of those locations to review their vaccine history and be aware of potential symptoms.

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Those symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and a red rash over much of the body.

People are contagious for as many as four days before their rash appears and stay contagious for as many as four days after it goes away, according to the center. Those who have been exposed to the disease may not see symptoms until as long as three weeks after exposure.

“The best protection against measles is vaccination,” said Dr. Siiri Bennett, state epidemiologist. “Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine provides long-lasting protection against measles.”

[US measles rate surges to second-highest level in nearly 2 decades]

The last reported case of measles in Maine was in 2017, and was found in an individual who acquired it after traveling overseas.

According to the Washington Post, the number of people who have contracted measles in the U.S. in the first three months of 2019 — 387 — has already topped the total number for all of 2018, 372. This year’s figure is already the second-highest for any year since U.S. health officials declared the sometimes deadly disease “eliminated” 19 years ago.

While vaccination rates have hovered above 90 percent since at least 2013, Maine’s unvaccinated population of youngsters is still more than double the national rate — the majority of which claim a religious or philosophical exemption.

[See if kindergartners are unvaccinated against measles at your school]

Two competing bills on the issue were submitted this legislative session. One, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono and Sen. Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, would remove parents’ option to claim non-medical religious or philosophical exemptions to avoid vaccinating their children.

The other, sponsored by Sen. Russell Black, R-Wilton, would protect parents’ and medical professionals’ autonomy to choose against vaccinating by expanding ways parents could claim a medical exemption.

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Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.