DANBURY, N.C. – North Carolina public health officials said they are investigating 19 cases of measles in Stokes, Orange and Polk counties.
Officials said most of the cases are associated with people who live in or have visited the Prabhupada Village in Stokes County. Health investigators believe the village residents, members of the Hare Krishna movement, were not vaccinated and became exposed after a resident traveled to India.
All but two of the 19 cases involve people who were never vaccinated.
Health officials said one of the measles cases involves a student at North Stokes High School.
Authorities said the outbreak was first reported in mid-April and more than 1,000 people in Stokes, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, Polk and Chatham counties may have been exposed.
Officials said all current enrolled students have been vaccinated for measles and they are working to ensure that teachers, staff and visitors have been also.
Currently, 24 people are quarantined because they were exposed and can’t find their vaccination record or can’t prove they’ve had measles in the past.
Todd Martin, assistant superintendent at Stokes County schools, said five staff members were absent on Tuesday because the health department was having trouble finding a record on their vaccinations.
Public health investigators said they are identifying additional possible exposures based on information from current cases.
Investigators said they have now determined at least two confirmed cases attended the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival in Chatham County Friday, April 19 through Sunday, April 21 while infectious and before becoming ill.
"Measles is unheard of in the US but we do have occasional outbreaks. It is usually among populations that have not been vaccinated," said Scott Lenhart, Stokes County Health Director.
Health officials are asking everyone, especially those who have not been immunized, to avoid the Prabhupada Village until the outbreak is over. The village is working closely with health officials and has canceled all events for now.
Stokes County health officials said they are also recommending people who are not vaccinated to avoid any highly populated areas in Stokes County during the outbreak.
“Measles is an extremely infectious disease and spreads very quickly,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, State Health Director, according to a prepared statement. “If you suspect you may be sick with measles, please call your healthcare provider before leaving home to avoid spreading the illness to people in doctors’ office or clinic waiting areas or in emergency departments.”
Measles is a highly contagious illness and unvaccinated populations are at highest risk of becoming sick when exposed.
It can be spread through coughing, sneezing and contact with secretions from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected person.
Initial symptoms may include a fever more than 101 F degrees, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough. After a few days, a rash will begin to appear on the face and spread over the entire body.
People with measles are considered infectious four days before and four days after the rash appears. Although rare, complications may include, pneumonia, infection of the central nervous system, and could result in death.
People who believe they may be ill with measles are asked contact their healthcare provider before leaving home to avoid spreading the illness.
Public health officials recommend immunization within 72 hours of exposure for people who have not been vaccinated.
For more information, visit cdc.gov or call Stokes County Health Department at (336) 593-2435