State walks back measles warning, says child showed reaction to vaccine

Monitor staff
Published: 5/23/2019 1:08:18 PM

A warning earlier this week that measles was detected in a child who passed through Keene has been withdrawn, with the state saying that the patient was actually showing a reaction to the vaccine.

“There is no contagious measles known to be circulating in the community,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Thursday morning.

On Sunday, DHHS issued a warning that a New Hampshire who apparently had measles was in several public places while infectious. It was the first case of a state resident with measles in many years.

Several areas of the country are facing outbreaks of measles, a disease that had been eradicated from the country in 2000 but which has returned because of opposition to vaccines, including the MMR vaccine that protects against measles.

Today’s announcement rescinding the warning is likely to encourage some vaccine opponents, who often exaggerate the likelihood and danger of vaccine reactions.

DHHS said after they learned that the child had been vaccinated several days before the start of symptoms, they requested “specialized laboratory testing to identify the measles strain causing the initial positive laboratory test.”

The MMR vaccine stands for measles, mumps and rubella, three diseases that it protects again. It is a live-attenuated vaccine made using a weakened live virus, rather than a dead virus, to build up immunity. Live-attentuated vaccines are generally more effective but also have a higher chance of producing a reaction similar to the disease.

About 5% of individuals vaccinated with the MMR vaccine develop a fever and rash reaction.

“More serious or extensive reactions that resemble a real (i.e. wild-type) measles virus infection, as was seen in this child, are very rare. The scientific literature has found no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the vaccine strain of the measles virus,” DHHS said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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