Urgent care centers are an important resource for many Americans, providing affordable and convenient medical care for a variety of non-life-threatening conditions. However, doctors often remind patients that in the event of a serious injury or illness, they should instead seek help at a hospital emergency room. The importance of this warning was recently illustrated in San Diego, when a patient with a suspected case of the measles mistakenly sought treatment at an urgent care clinic.
On Monday, January 19. the Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo Urgent Care clinic tweeted that it was closed due to a suspected case of measles. All other departments at the location remained open.
According to a clinic spokesperson, the unidentified patient came into the urgent care center before 10:30, seeking treatment for unspecified measles symptoms. At the time, 20 other patients were inside. The possible measles patient was quickly interviewed at the center, as were the other people in the clinic. Test samples have been sent to the county, and the other patients were eventually released after producing documentation of immunization.
Today, measles is a relatively uncommon illness. However, recent events suggest that an outbreak may be developing. More than two dozen people in four states have been diagnosed with the condition after visiting the Disneyland theme park between December 17 and December 20. Moreover, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services (HHSA) announced on January 19 that there were potentially three new cases of measles in the area. The agency is currently awaiting test results. If the cases are confirmed, it would bring the total number of cases in San Diego county up to 13. It is unknown if the urgent care patient is connected to the Disneyland outbreak, but it is clear that Southern California has reason to be worried.
Measles is an extremely contagious airborne disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) have stated that early symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. After two or three days, white spots may also develop inside the patient’s mouth. Within three to five days, a distinctive rash will form. Symptoms of measles can develop anywhere from seven to 21 days after the initial exposure.
County officials in San Diego have advised anyone who experiences measles symptoms to contact their health provider by phone. This should help reduce the risk that other people will be exposed to the disease. Patients should not, therefore, visit local urgent cares or their doctor’s office.
The Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo Urgent Care clinic was able to discharge the possible measles patient and eventually reopened at 3:30 p.m. the same day. In cases like these, medical centers are typically required to shut down for a minimum of two hours before re-opening.