City warns of possible measles exposure after case confirmed in Center City office building

The potentially deadly virus primarily poses a threat to those are unvaccinated, the Health Dept. said

City health officials issued a measles exposure warning for a small number of people after a case of the virus was confirmed at a Jefferson Health outpatient office inside an office building at Ninth and Chestnut, shown above.

A small number of people may have been exposed to measles in a Center City office building last week, city health officials said. The notice was issued after a case of the virus was confirmed in a patient at one of the Jefferson Health offices inside the building at Ninth and Chestnut streets on Dec. 19.

The exposure warning only applies to people who may have been inside the building, located at 33 S. Ninth St., between 2 and 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 19, city officials said. The exposure is believed to have originated at one of the Jefferson outpatient practices located inside the building.

City health officials said it was initially unclear exactly how many people may have been exposed to the virus, but that the number was likely not large. As of Sunday afternoon, the city was still working to determine who may have come in contact with the infected person. Health officials did not say whether it was a Jefferson staff member or patient who was initially infected.

In a statement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said that there “is no threat to the general public associated with this case of the measles,” and encouraged anyone who may have potentially been exposed to take precautionary measures if they have not been vaccinated against the measles virus. 

City health officials said that those who are unvaccinated and also may have been present in the building where the infection occurred should follow up with a medical provider about receiving a dose of the MMR vaccine, which they described as “safe and highly effective” and “the best way to avoid serious complications from a vaccine-preventable disease.”

Measles is a highly contagious illness that commonly results in symptoms like a runny nose, puffy eyes, cough and a fever, often followed by a rash. The virus can easily spread between people through respiratory droplets, either found in the air from sneezing or coughing or via direct contact with such droplets. For some, the illness can develop into a more serious disease that leads to brain infection, pneumonia and even death.

The spread of measles has historically been kept at bay by the MMR vaccine, a commonly-administered vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella. However, as city health officials noted, the disease has become more common over the last decade. The rate at which U.S. kindergarten students are being vaccinated against measles has declined slightly each year since the 2019-2020 school year, according to data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

In July, a measles case was reported in Montgomery County after an unvaccinated child was confirmed to have contracted the virus.