The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

May 17, 2013

Measles cases have state health officials concerned


TARBORO — Twenty-three cases of the measles have been reported in North Carolina in a recent outbreak and has state health officials concerned.

“It (measles) is a highly contagious disease that is spread in the air by coughing and sneezing,” said Susan Rogerson, nursing director at the Edgecombe County Health Department. Outbreaks of measles in the United States are rare because of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

No cases of the measles have been reported in Edgecombe County. The majority of the cases reported were in rural Stokes County, but cases were also reported in Orange County.

The majority of the North Carolina residents affected by the measles outbreak had not been vaccinated. In the case of the Orange County family, one person had been fully vaccinated and another had a partial vaccine, as WRAL reported on May 8.

“Of course, I recommend all childhood recommended immunizations,” Rogerson said.

The MMR vaccine is available at the Edgecombe County Health Department by appointment, although most school-aged children will have received the vaccination.

“Two doses are required before admission to kindergarten,” said Rogerson. “Typically the first one’s given at 12 months.” The vaccine is free to those eligible for the Vaccines for Children program. For those not eligible for the program, the vaccine is $103 per shot.

“Measles is very uncommon in North Carolina, so many people aren’t aware of the symptoms,” Dr. Laura Gerald, state health director, said in a statement. “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.”

Early symptoms of measles are fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and cough. A rash appears after a few days and spreads over the whole body.

Most people who have measles do not develop complications from the disease, but it can pose a serious health threat to young children and pregnant women. Measles can cause a pregnant woman to miscarry or deliver prematurely. About one of every 10 children with measles will get an ear infection and up to one in 20 will develop pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One or two children out of every 1,000 will die. Infants under the age of 12 months are more susceptible to catch measles because they will not have had the vaccination.

To schedule an appointment to get the MMR vaccine, call the health department at 641-7511.