fb-pixel Skip to main content

Child misdiagnosed with measles on Martha’s Vineyard

When health officials reported last month that a child on Martha’s Vineyard had contracted measles, more than 180 people on the island quickly received vaccinations. But the state Department of Public Health now says that diagnosis was incorrect.

The child, who was from out of state and was not vaccinated, had been evaluated and diagnosed with the illness at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in mid-June.

Since the diagnosis, people on the Vineyard received vaccinations to protect themselves against measles, mumps, and rubella, officials from the Department of Public Health said.

Follow-up tests, however, have since determined that the child was misdiagnosed, a state health official said Friday.


Rhonda Mann, director of communications for the Executive Office of Health & Human Services, said in a phone interview Friday that measles are rare, but action must be taken quickly because of the possible risk. Health & Human Services oversees the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

“It’s highly contagious and dangerous,” she said.

Scott Zoback, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health, said that diagnosing measles is complex from both “clinical and laboratory perspectives.”

“It is important that Public Health authorities at all levels respond immediately to suspected measles to carry initial diagnostic testing, consult with the CDC, and institute control measures that can prevent a serious outbreak,” Zoback said in a statement.

During a period of nine days, the child had visited public venues in West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. Officials feared the child had possibly exposed people on the island to the virus.

Marina Lent, of the Chilmark Board of Health, said in June that the child remained in isolation to guard against further exposure.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital officials said in a statement that “the child was immediately identified and subsequently isolated from the community.”

Hospital officials did not respond to requests Friday for comment on the misdiagno-sis.


Measles is caused by a virus that spreads easily between people, according to the state Department of Public Health. Symptoms are similar to that of a cold or flu, and within a few days a blotchy rash starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

There was one confirmed case of measles in Massachusetts this year, Mann said.

A high school student visiting Massachusetts from Western Europe was diagnosed with measles in April. State health officials said at the time that the student, who was staying in Essex County, was recovering.

Felice J. Freyer of the Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent Vergie Hoban contributed to this report. Katherine Landergan can be reached at katherine.landergan@globe. com. Follow her on Twitter @klandergan.