Cho­co­late, matzo and measles Trip to su­per­mar­kets may have re­sulted in cou­ple’s ex­po­sure to virus

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY SHEN WU TAN

Bal­ti­more cou­ple Kathy Ab­bott and Gary Pushkin were un­aware of the po­ten­tial risk of their re­cent trip to kosher su­per­mar­kets in Pikesville, Mary­land.

On the Sun­day be­fore Passover, they bought matzo and cho­co­late at two stores in Pikesville’s Jewish com­mu­nity, only to dis­cover three days later they might have been ex­posed to measles.

Raised in Europe in the 1960s, Ms. Ab­bott didn’t know if she ever re­ceived the measles vac­cine as a child — and the un­cer­tainty made her and her hus­band anxious.

“I wasn’t sure if I was ever in­oc­u­lated for it be­cause I was liv­ing in Europe, and I had got­ten the mumps,” Ms. Ab­bott said.

Five cases of measles have been con­firmed in Mary­land, con­fined to small ar­eas in Pikesville and Bal­ti­more. Those cases con­trib­ute to the 880 measles in­fec­tions re­ported in 24 states this year, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion an­nounced.

The some­times deadly, highly con­ta­gious virus was elim­i­nated in the United States in 2000, but it has seen a resur­gence in re­cent years. This year’s tally marks the most U.S. measles in­fec­tions since 1994, an in­crease driven by peo­ple re­fus­ing to get the vac­cine be­cause of re­li­gious or per­sonal rea­sons.

The largest out­breaks have oc­curred in un­vac­ci­nated, mostly Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in New York, where health officials and elected lead­ers have or­dered chil­dren to take the vac­cine and re­stricted un­vac­ci­nated chil­dren’s ac­cess to pub­lic schools.

In Mary­land, the state Depart­ment of Health has warned of pos­si­ble measles ex­po­sure in Pikesville on April 17 at Mar­ket Maven be­tween 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and at Seven Mile Mar­ket be­tween 12:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m., the times and places Ms. Ab­bott had shopped with her hus­band, Dr. Pushkin, an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon.

“I think peo­ple are be­ing very short­sighted and self­ish be­cause they are im­pact­ing other peo­ple around them who ei­ther have not got­ten vac­cines be­cause they are too young to get them or haven’t got­ten them for any med­i­cal rea­sons,” Ms. Ab­bott said.

In ad­vo­cat­ing vac­ci­na­tions, Dr. Pushkin noted a new Mary­land State Med­i­cal So­ci­ety (MedChi) res­o­lu­tion to cre­ate a “sys­tem to re­port chil­dren who have not been im­mu­nized prior to en­roll­ment into a preschool or school, pub­lic or pri­vate, to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Health.”

He said this in­for­ma­tion would give com­mu­ni­ties a bet­ter idea of their vac­ci­na­tion rates, not­ing the po­ten­tial lack of data for home­schooled chil­dren.

Rus­sel Ku­jan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Bal­ti­more County Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said the MedChi res­o­lu­tion pro­vides the “miss­ing piece of the puz­zle” to help health officials to iden­tify un­vac­ci­nated chil­dren through­out the state.

“Hope­fully, this res­o­lu­tion that we passed will make the state safer,” Mr. Ku­jan said.

A new Mary­land law that takes ef­fect in Oc­to­ber re­quires health care providers to re­port to the state im­mu­niza­tion reg­istry, Im­muNet, all vac­cines they ad­min­is­ter.

The state Health Depart­ment said that reg­istries help with “rapid re­sponses to vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­ease out­breaks, like the on­go­ing mul­ti­state measles and hep­ati­tis A out­breaks.”

In­fec­tious dis­eases loom large in Ms. Ab­bott’s life: She con­tracted the mumps when she was a girl, got scar­let fever at a Swiss board­ing school in 1971 and caught chicken pox from her chil­dren at age 39.

She got a booster shot for measles last month and plans to get an­other vac­cine as a pre­cau­tion. Dr. Pushkin said he was not wor­ried about him­self be­cause he knew he had re­ceive the measles vac­cine.

“We know vac­ci­na­tions are safe,” Dr. Pushkin said. “We know they pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion at large. I think some­times we have to think more of the com­mu­nity as op­posed to own per­sonal in­ter­est. We’re part of a com­mu­nity.”

COUR­TESY OF KATHY AB­BOTT AND GARY PUSHKIN

Kathy Ab­bott and Gary Pushkin dis­cov­ered they may have been ex­posed to measles dur­ing a shop­ping trip in Pikesville, Mary­land.

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