Maryland health officials said yesterday that an "alarming" measles outbreak in the state, concentrated in Prince George's County and reported in June, has continued during the summer months.
Officials reported 113 measles cases statewide this year, 97 of them in Prince George's. Eight cases were found in Montgomery County, four in Baltimore County and four in other counties. The state total compares with 22 cases last year and only 11 in 1983.
The outbreak has been concentrated in Prince George's primarily because the virus is circulating there, not because of lower immunization rates, health officials said.
Most of the measles cases in the county stem from outbreaks at the University of Maryland in College Park in mid-March and Eleanor Roosevelt High School in May. The new cases this summer have been spread around the county, a county health official said.
In mid-June, state officials issued a warning that the outbreak of the disease constituted a "very dangerous situation." They urged parents to immunize their children if they had not done so.
Since then, 49 cases have been reported, including 42 in Prince George's.
"It seems to be continuing. It's very unfortunate," said Dr. Seng-Ying C. Lin, chief of clinical epidemiology for the Maryland Health Department.
Measles is contagious beginning four days before the appearance of symptoms, which include fever, rash and a cough. The disease can cause ear and eye infections and, rarely, pneumonia, encephalitis -- an inflammation of the brain -- and death.
Earlier this year, three students died from complications during a measles epidemic at Principia College in Elsah, Ill. Campus outbreaks have been of particular concern and the Centers for Disease Control has recommended that colleges and universities upgrade their immunization requirements.
Both Maryland and Prince George's health officers have been waging a public education campaign, notifying physicians, clinics and hospitals of the outbreak.
"We've been accustomed to having one case or no cases, so any number of cases is of concern," said Dr. Nigel Jackman, director of community health services in Prince George's.
Lin said the rate of increase has slowed slightly since spring.
"To see the number double or triple in two or three years . . . this is definitely an alarming situation," said state health department spokeswoman Lynn Guttenberger.
Nationally, the number of cases has dropped from 550,000 in 1955 to 2,534 last year, primarily because of development of the measles vaccine and a federally sponsored campaign to eradicate the disease.