DHHS Issues A Public Health Advisory After Measles Outbreak

5:48 PM, Apr 18, 2013   |    comments
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Raleigh, NC -- The state department of health has issued a public health advisory after a measles outbreak in Stokes and Orange Counties.

Local health officials confirm there have been multiple cases of the highly contagious disease reported between the two counties.

"It's so contagious that the virus stays in the room after two hours after the [infected patient] leaves a room," explained Judy Southern, a clinical services program manager at the Guilford County Health Department.

Officials in the affected counties are working with the state to invesigate the outbreak.

Stokes County Health Director Scott Lenhart told WFMY News 2 the number of cases continues to change. As of Thursday afternoon, there are two confirmed cases and five more potential cases under investigation. He said of all the cases there are at least two home-schooled children who have contracted the disease. 

Lenhart says the Stokes County measles cases have been traced back to a young man perhaps in his 20s or 30s, however, health officials don't know how he contracted the disease.

Early thursday afternoon, some Stokes County residents told News 2 they were just learning of the outbreak.

"I hope they contain it," said 68-year-old Danny Woods who said he was vaccinated as a child after he contracted the disease.

Other county residents like Gina Brown say they aren't concerned.

Over at the Orange County Health Department, officials told News 2 there is one confirmed case at this time. They are evaluating 23 individuals who potentially had contact with the infected person in Orange County. 

The representative said to the best of their department's knowledge, the individual contracted the disease in Stokes County.

Free measles vaccinations are being offered to people in Stokes County. You can call 336-593-2400 for more information.

Read: Statement from Stokes County Health Officials

To prevent the spread of the disease, local public health departments are reaching out to people who may have been exposed and give them the vaccination. 

DHHS says measles is highly contagious. It is spread through coughing and sneezing or from contact with secretions from an infected person's nose or mouth. 

"Measles is very uncommon in North Carolina, so many people aren't aware of the symptoms," said Dr. Laura Gerald, State Health Director in a news release. "Measles spreads quickly, particularly in children and adults who aren't vaccinated.  We want to make the public aware of this outbreak so individuals can take steps to protect themselves and their families."

Fever, runny nose, watery eyes and cough are several potential initial symptoms. A rash will appear on an infected person's head after a few days, and then spread over their body. The disease could cause pneumonia, a major risk for young children with the infection. Pregnant women who contract measles face problems such as miscarriage or premature birth.

Measles can be prevented by a combined measles, mumps and rubella - MMR - vaccine. DHHS said it is important for everyone to receive the vaccination as early as 1-year-old.

Visit DHHS' website for more information.

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