Measles outbreak traced back to Stokes County, official says

RALEIGH, N.C. — State health officials issued a public health advisory Thursday warning of a measles outbreak.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, seven cases of measles have been confirmed in residents of Stokes and Orange counties.

Six of the seven confirmed cases are with residents in Stokes County, according to Zach Moore with the N.C. Division of Public Health.

The one case in Orange County is related to the Stokes County cases, Moore said.

Moore says the source of the outbreak was traced back to a Stokes County resident who recently traveled to India and returned with the measles.

None of the people who have confirmed cases were vaccinated, Moore added.

State health officials say they’re working with local health departments concerning the matter.

“Local public health departments are contacting other people who might have been exposed to these cases and providing vaccine to limit the spread of infection,” officials said in a news release.

Stokes Co. Schools Asst. Supt. Todd Martin said no children in the public schools have measles at this time. The school system has no reported cases, so they will not be sending letters to parents at this time.

School nurses are aware it’s shown up in other parts of the county.

State Health Director Dr. Laura Gerald says measles is “very uncommon” in North Carolina.

“Measles spreads quickly, particularly in children and adults who aren’t vaccinated,” Gerald said.  “We want to make the public aware of this outbreak so individuals can take steps to protect themselves and their families.”

Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.  It also can be transmitted through contact with secretions from the nose or mouth of an infected person.

“if you are exposed to someone who’s got it and you haven’t been vaccinated then you are probably going to get it,” said Dr. Chris Ohl Infectious Disease Specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Initial symptoms may include fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and cough. After a few days, a rash appears on the head and spreads over the entire body.

Measles can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children.  The disease poses serious risks for pregnant women, including miscarriage and premature birth.

Although the early symptoms of measles can be similar to those of many other infections, Gerald says anyone with fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough, should stay at home and limit contact with others to avoid spreading illness.

If you develop a rash or if your symptoms worsen, call your doctor or seek medical care.

If you do seek medical care, call your doctor’s office or health care facility before you go so they can prepare for your visit and protect other patients from exposure.

Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. It is important for all individuals 12 months of age and older to be vaccinated.

“Vaccine is readily available,” Gerald said.  “Anyone interested in getting vaccinated should contact their primary health care provider or their local health department.”

More information about measles can be found at publichealth.nc.gov.

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