Measles Outbreak Sparks Vaccination Debate

A Measles outbreak across portions of the United States has sparked concern from parents here in Orange County and enflamed the debate over vaccinations.

Stacy Shelp, Public Information Officer with Orange County Health Department, says there is no presence of measles in our community. But you don’t have to think back very far to remember an outbreak.

“Measles is extremely contagious; to the point of about a 90 percent contagion rate,” she says. “We did have an outbreak here in Orange County back in 2013. We had eight confirmed cases in Orange County and 23 in the state.

“As of that time, what we would continue to do is really encourage people to get their vaccination.”

Shelp says she does not have current numbers, but Orange County has traditionally had a high vaccination rate.

“In 2013 here at the Orange County Health Department, we actually had a very high vaccination rate at about 97 percent of our patients were vaccinated.”

Most public school students in North Carolina receive a shot to help fight off the measles, but there are waivers that can be filed by parents who do not want their children vaccinated.

“There are medical and religious exemptions that parents can use for school reasons,” she says. “It’s not going to be for us to track down and say ‘prove it, prove it, prove it.’ It really is for that parent to say.”

Shelp adds the vaccination is the best preventative measure parents can take to avoid the viral infection.

“They can get their first dose of the MMR between twelve and fifteen months old, and a second dose at four to six years of age,” she says. “That’s obviously, and with a lot of evidence behind it, the best way to protect yourself from measles.”

There have been no confirmed cases of measles in North Carolina in 2015. There was a scare with two potential cases in Cleveland County, but test results for measles were negative.

Orange County Recognized for Measles Prevention

HILLSBOROUGH – Your local Orange County health department has been recognized by the NC Division of Public Health/Communicable Disease Branch for “Best Practice in an Outbreak Response Associated with the Spring 2013 Measles Outbreak.”

Community health services supervisor at the Orange County health department, Judy Butler, says the county’s effective response was rooted in its quick action after cases were discovered.

“It’s not something that you can let lie on your desk for a couple of days and then start working on it,” Butler says.

During the spread, 25 quarantine and isolation orders were given by the county, and eight cases of measles infection were confirmed.

“This is the largest number of quarantine and isolation orders we’ve had to issue in quite some time,” Butler says. “One reason for that is that measles is highly infectious.”

All of the measles cases in this incident were traced back to exposure in Stokes County.

HYAA Baseball Attendees Possible Measles Exposure

CHAPEL HILL – The Orange County Health Department is reporting that people in attendance of two Hillsborough Youth Athletic Association baseball games last week may have been exposed to the measles.

The first game was on Friday, May 3, at 6:00 p.m. at the Cedar Grove Park—Field No. 2— in Cedar Grove, NC. The other game was at the Exchange Club Park in Hillsborough, NC on Saturday, May 4, at 4:30 p.m.

A person in attendance of those games “developed symptoms of measles” on Sunday, May 5. This would mean that they may have been contagious while at the games on Friday and Saturday.

Judy Butler, Community Health Services Supervisor for the OCHD, says it can be called a case of the measles. She says it’s still too early in the illness, though, to confirm the case through blood tests.

That’s brings the total number of known cases in Orange County to nine this year and 23 total in the state.

“The majority of the population would be protected by either already having had the illness or receiving the vaccine,” Butler said. “This was an outdoor, short-term setting so it would still be a low-risk exposure. Still we felt like we had to let people know.”

Measles is a viral illness that’s spread through respiratory droplets. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash that begins on the head and moves down. Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR— the measles, mumps, and rubella— vaccine.

The earliest a child can be vaccinated is one year of age and then the second dose can be given 30 days later.

Butler says this person had been fully vaccinated and had no reason not to be in public. She’s says this was a rare case given the context.

“According to the Center For Disease Control, two doses of the vaccine given at the appropriate ages—which this person’s was— are greater than 99 percent effective.”

If you attended the games on May 3 or 4, the health department is warning to be alert for symptoms that could occur anytime between May 10 and May 25.

If you develop symptoms, Butler says to stay home and call your medical provider to be tested.

Before this outbreak, 2011 was the last time a measles case was reported in North Carolina and it was just one person.

“I haven’t dealt with measles in any form since 1988. This is a very unusual year for us,” Butler said.

Butler says this outbreak can be traced back to a case coming out of Stokes County in the western part of the state. She says all of the known cases in North Carolina are linked.

“There was someone who traveled to another country where they have measles,” she explained. “That person was not vaccinated. That person returned and then became ill will measles.”

WCHL will keep you updated on any new reports of measles cases in Orange County.

OC Health Department Still On Alert For New Measles Cases

HILLSBOROUGH- Health Department officials say the measles outbreak in Orange County is under control, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Communications Manager Stacy Shelp says the recent outbreak seems to be winding down.

“In Orange County we’re still at five confirmed cases of measles. We do have two suspect cases that we’re watching, but they are in quarantine,” says Shelp. “We are down to only having two other people in quarantine, so that’s really good news.”

Statewide, the number of confirmed cases is holding steady at 19. Shelp says while those numbers have not increased, health officials are still waiting to see if a potential exposure in Chatham County will generate any more cases.

“I do want to reiterate that we are not necessarily in the clear. We did have the potential exposure at the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, and we are still twelve days away from the last possible time that someone could start showing symptoms from that exposure.”

The Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival drew big crowds to Silk Hope in mid-April. Shelp says anyone who attended the four-day music festival and is not currently vaccinated should be on the look out for symptoms.

“If you did attend the Shakori Hills festival and you have not had the vaccine and you start showing symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, or fever call your local health department immediately.”

Measles vaccinations are available from the Orange County Health Department.