In February 1981, a measles outbreak occurred in a pediatric practice in DeKalb County, GA. The source case, a 12-year-old boy vaccinated against measles at 111/2 months of age, was in the office for one hour on the second day of rash, primarily in a single examining room. On examination, he was noted to be coughing vigorously. Seven secondary cases of measles occurred due to exposure in the office. Four children had transient contact with the source patient as he entered or exited through the waiting room; only one of the four had face-to-face contact within 1 m of the source patient. The three other children who contracted measles were never in the same room with the source patient; one of the three arrived at the office one hour after the source patient had left. The risk of measles for unvaccinated infants (attack rate 80%, 4/5) was 10.8 times the risk for vaccinated children (attack rate 7%, 2/27) (P = .022, Fisher exact test, two-tailed). Airflow studies demonstrated that droplet nuclei generated in the examining room used by the source patient were dispersed throughout the entire office suite. Airborne spread of measles from a vigorously coughing child was the most likely mode of transmission. The outbreak supports the fact that measles virus when it becomes airborne can survive at least one hour. The rarity of reports of similar outbreaks suggests that airborne spread is unusual. Modern office design with tight insulation and a substantial proportion of recirculated ventilation may predispose to airborne transmission.

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