INDIANAPOLIS-State health officials confirmed five cases of measles in Noble County Tuesday. Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It is rare in the United States due to the widespread availability of the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, however visitors from other countries or U.S. citizens traveling abroad can become infected before or during travel.
The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease. In addition to Noble County, the following surrounding counties may be affected: Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Steuben, and Whitley.
"With measles, even one case is considered an outbreak-which is simply the occurrence of a disease at a higher than expected number of cases," said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin, M.D. "The situation in northeastern Indiana is under active investigation. We have deployed State Health Department staff to local health departments to help identify additional cases and contain the outbreak. Local health departments in affected areas are also being provided additional doses of the MMR vaccine."
More than 95 percent of people who receive a single dose of MMR will develop immunity to measles, and more than 99 percent will be protected after receiving a second dose. Two doses of the vaccine are needed to be fully protected.
"I cannot stress enough that the best protection against measles is to get vaccinated," said Dr. Larkin. "I encourage all Hoosiers, but especially those in the northeastern counties, to make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Children are routinely vaccinated for measles at 1 year of age, and again at 4-6 years of age before going to kindergarten, but children as young as 6 months old can receive the measles vaccine if they are at risk."
Local health departments in the impacted counties will be offering the MMR vaccine at no cost to individuals who believe they may have been exposed to an infected person. MMR vaccine is also covered by most insurance plans, and all Indiana Medicaid programs. Individuals unsure about their vaccination history should ask their health care providers, as they have access to vaccination records for many Hoosiers through the Indiana Immunization Registry, or CHIRP.
Measles begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes about 7-10 days after exposure. The fever increases and can get as high as 105 degrees. Two to four days later, a rash starts on the face and upper neck. It spreads down the back and trunk, and then extends to the arms and hands, as well as the legs and feet. After about five days, the rash fades the same order in which it appeared.
Measles is highly contagious. When infected persons sneeze or cough, droplets spray into the air. Those droplets remain active and contagious on infected surfaces for up to two hours.
What you can do
If you are experiencing the symptoms of measles, stay home and call your doctor. Be prepared to describe your symptoms and alert your doctor if you think you have been in contact with an infected person. If you are ill with measles, remain home and away from others, especially unvaccinated infants, people with diseases affecting their immune systems, and pregnant women.
"In addition to getting vaccinated, a few basic practices like frequent hand washing and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze are always a good idea when protecting yourself from contagious diseases," said Dr. Larkin.
Three easy-to-follow tips to help prevent the spread of any infectious respiratory disease, including measles, are:
· Clean - properly wash your hands frequently;
· Cover - cover your cough and sneeze; and,
· Contain - contain your germs by staying home (or keep children at home from school) if experiencing symptoms.
For more information about measles, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/measles/.
For information on how to contact your local health department, please visit the Indiana State Department of Health at http://www.state.in.us/isdh/24822.htm.
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