RALEIGH, N.C. -- State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in an 11-month-old Martin County child. The child was apparently exposed to the disease from an 11-year-old family friend who contracted measles after traveling to England, where immunization rates are lower than in the United States. No additional cases have been identified. As far as health officials have been able to determine, the last case of measles in North Carolina occurred in a 3-year-old Durham child in 1996; that child also was infected by someone who had become infected in a foreign country.
Staff members of the Division of Public Healths Immunization Section are working with local Martin County public health authorities to determine who might have been exposed to the disease. People who may have been exposed and who have not previously received two doses of measles vaccine are being contacted so that that they should be immunized immediately.
The public health investigation has confirmed that a contact of one of the infected children attended the Eastern 4H Center Camp in Columbia, N.C. (Tyrell County) during the week of July 2, 2004. Because the disease is highly contagious, State Health Director Leah Devlin stresses that children who attended the Eastern 4H Center camp July 2 must be vaccinated against the disease before entering school, if they have not already been immunized.
Local authorities are also checking vaccination records for all school-age children in Martin, Tyrell, and Washington counties. Any child who has not been fully vaccinated against measles must be vaccinated before starting school. Martin and Washington county schools start Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004. Tyrell schools start Monday, Aug. 9, 2004.
Measles is a serious viral disease that can cause ear infections, inflammation of the brain, pneumonia, and even death. Prior to vaccine licensure, the disease caused thousands of deaths worldwide; however, measles cases have dramatically declined since 1991 because of efforts to ensure children are age-appropriately vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, said Devlin. If your child hasnt yet been fully vaccinated against measles, then parents should be aware of the symptoms of the disease, which include rash, high fever, cough and runny nose.
Vaccination is the key to disease prevention, she added. Measles-containing vaccine is 95 percent effective in children after the first dose and 98 percent effective after the second dose. Without aggressive vaccination efforts, measles cases will rise. It is important to remember that if your childs immunizations are not up-to-date, now is the time to get your child vaccinated.
Were working around the clock to protect the people of Martin, Tyrell and Washington counties, said Keith Patton, director of the Martin, Tyrell, Washington District Health Department. Our staff is busy combing immunization records, shuffling schedules to make room for people needing measles vaccines, and contacting people who may have been exposed. The local public health team is absolutely committed to containing this situation.
The 11-year-old had not been vaccinated. The 11-month-old was not old enough to receive the MMR vaccine, which is given when children are at least 12 months of age.
The vaccine currently used is a live-virus, weakened combination vaccine that protects against the measles, mumps, and rubella viruses. It was first licensed in the combined form in 1971 and contains the safest and most effective forms of each vaccine.
According to the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), children should get two doses of MMR vaccine with the first at 12-15 months of age and a second dose at 4-6 years of age. Additionally, the ACIP recommends the following people should be vaccinated with measles-containing vaccine:
-- anyone 18 years of age or older, who was born after 1956, should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, unless they can show that they have had either the vaccines or the diseases;
-- college student, trade school student, or other student beyond high school;
persons who work in a hospital or other medical facility;
-- persons who travel internationally, or are a passenger on a cruise ship; and
women of childbearing age.
Measles is transmitted from person to person through coughing and sneezing. It is most characterized by a rash; however, prior to rash onset, symptoms include fever above 103°F, cough, runny nose and eye irritation and redness. Rash lesions begin at the hairline and moves down from the face and neck to the hands and feet. It usually lasts five to six days, and the rash typically fades in the same manner in which appeared.
Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services