The possibility that a widespread measles outbreak will occur because an infected student from Western Europe spent an afternoon shopping at several retail stores in Kittery is very low, the state’s top health official said Wednesday.

But Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, acting chief health officer for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, said anyone who was in the Kittery Outlets on April 20 should check their immunization records and be on the lookout for symptoms of the highly contagious disease.

Pezzullo said Maine’s high vaccination rate against measles – 91 percent, which is also the national average – means the chance of a widespread outbreak is unlikely.

The state’s last case of measles was reported in 1997, Pezzullo said, adding that the Maine DHHS issued a statement on Wednesday as a precautionary measure. The student spent no more than five hours shopping at The Kittery Trading Post, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and J. Crew, according to Pezzullo. The student may have visited other stores in Kittery during his visit to Maine.

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified Tuesday night by Massachusetts public health officials that a male student visiting from Western Europe who tested positive for measles had visited stores at the Kittery Outlets.

“Since measles is a contagious airborne disease, people who were at the Kittery malls from noon to 5 p.m. on April 20 should check their immunization records and be aware of the symptoms,” Pezzullo said.

Earlier this year, Maine ramped up its efforts to educate the public about the importance of vaccinations and updated doctors on recognizing and treating measles after an outbreak of the disease at Disneyland sparked a national debate about immunizations. That outbreak started in California and spread to 14 states, sickening more than 100 people.

Pezzullo said the student developed symptoms on April 24, four days after shopping in Kittery.

“He didn’t know what was going on so he visited his doctor and tested positive for measles,” Pezzullo said.

“Infected people are contagious from four days before their rash starts through four days after,” Pezzullo said in a statement. “As the exposure took place nine days ago, early treatments for those who may have been impacted is not effective. We recommend that a person with symptoms contact their primary care provider by phone to discuss treatment, as isolation to prevent the spread of measles may be necessary.”

Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness, according to the Maine CDC. It can cause severe health complications including pneumonia, encephalitis and, in rare cases, death. It is transmitted through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can remain on surfaces or in the air for up to two hours.

Most parents have their children vaccinated at ages 1 and 3, but Pezzullo said there are no restrictions on getting vaccinated later in life.

With 5.2 percent of children entering kindergarten without all of their required immunizations, Maine has the fifth highest vaccination opt-out rate in the nation – behind Oregon, Idaho, Vermont and Michigan.

The state has seen a spike in pertussis, or whooping cough, cases since 2012.

<PARAGRAPH style=”TXT.shirttail”>Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: