Local doctor, Rabbi work together to track down 'patient zero' in measles outbreak

Posted at 5:08 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 19:26:06-04

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — A middle-aged man from Israel, currently living in New York City, had no idea he was infected with the measles when he traveled to southeast Michigan last month.

According to Dr. Steve McGraw with Ascension Providence Hospital, the man first thought he may have had bronchitis. It was only after he developed a rash that a doctor called the Oakland County Health Department.

McGraw, who later treated patient zero, said the outbreak was totally inadvertent.

“He did everything the public health department asked him to do," McGraw said. "Our problem then was to sort of backtrack where he had been and try to determine some of the places he had inadvertently exposed people to this disease."

The man, who works to raise funds for charities, visited several locations around metro Detroit in early March including:

  • Lincoln Liquor & Rx at 25901 Coolidge Highway in Oak Park on Friday, March 8, from 12:20 to 2:45 p.m.
  • Jerusalem Pizza at 26025 Greenfield Road in Southfield on Tuesday, March 12 and Wednesday, March 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Potential exposures may have also occurred daily from March 6 through March 13 at the following locations:

  • One Stop Kosher Market at 25155 Greenfield Road in Southfield
  • Ahavas Olam Torah Center at 15620 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield
  • Congregation Yagdil Torah at 17100 W. 10 Mile Road in Southfield
  • Yeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit at 24600 Greenfield Road in Oak Park
  • Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit at 15230 Lincoln Street in Oak Park

“The tough part was we didn’t have his itinerary," McGraw said.

The patient doesn't speak English, so McGraw worked with a local Rabbi to translate and help locate possible exposure sites, which are now in the dozens.

Tests confirmed patient zero had the same strain of measles that recently broke out in New York City — the D8 strain. It’s the same strain every southeast Michigan measles patient has tested positive for.

“From the time of your exposure you have about 72 hours if you’re not immune to be vaccinated,” McGraw said.

Based on this community’s response to the outbreak, it’s clear childhood vaccinations are a priority, according to McGraw.

“You know that’s true too because our people that got exposed and got sick were largely adults,” he said.

McGraw stresses though, vaccinations are important for everyone. Anyone who isn't sure if they've been vaccinated or received the recommended two-dose MMR vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella, should contact their doctor.

Patient zero has since returned to the New York City area, after he was quarantined in Michigan.

There have been 43 confirmed cases of the measles in southeast Michigan since the outbreak.