Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri reporting measles cases as national outbreak continues

GRAVES COUNTY, KY — Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri are among the states that have reported measles cases so far this year, adding to a national total that has already surpassed all of last year’s and continues to grow.

Doug Hogan, executive director of public affairs at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, told Local 6 that there have been two cases of measles in the state so far in 2019. The first case involved an unvaccinated young child who traveled out of the country. The second case involved a sibling of the first child. Both children live in the region of Kentucky served by the Barren River District Health Department in Bowling Green. Hogan said both children have since made a complete recovery.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Public Health says there have been seven cases of measles so far this year. IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said all the cases were either in Champaign County or in the area of Cook County and the collar counties (the five counties around Cook County).

In Missouri, there has been one case of measles this year, located in Jefferson County, said Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox.

Those numbers are part of a spike in measles cases across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says from Jan. 1 to March 28, there were 387 confirmed cases of measles in 15 states. That three-month total is more than all of last year’s — which was 372 — and the second most since measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

Including the first few days of April, the total number of measles cases across the U.S. is higher than 387, with Rockland County in New York state reporting 166 cases as of April 4 and New York City reporting 259 cases as of April 3.

Rita Thorn, a registered nurse at the Graves County Health Department, said she was surprised by the numbers, but not really shocked.

“Because there have been so many people refusing vaccines here in recent years, that it’s really easy for an outbreak to occur,” said Thorn.

Thorn said measles can spread very easily from person to person.

“Coughing and sneezing does spread the measles. Measles is highly contagious. Measles can even stay in a room up to two hours after the person has left,” Thorn explained.

Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes, followed by rashes.

“The measles, complications from that can be pneumonia, severe conjunctivitis or infections in the eyes. It can cause encephalitis (brain inflammation) and seizures. And in very severe cases, it can cause death,” said Thorn.

The recommended ages for getting the measles vaccine is between 12 and 15 months and between 4 and 6 years old. But adults who have never been vaccinated can still get it.

Thorn said anyone interested in getting vaccinated can call the Graves County Health Department to schedule an appointment. The department also accepts walk-in patients every day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Thorn also noted that there has been no scientific study linking autism with any vaccine.

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