DOBSON — Officials with the Surry County health department are strongly urging residents who are unsure whether they have received vaccinations for measles to take steps to ensure they receive the vaccine.
The action comes in the wake of the discovery of seven cases of the disease, six in Stokes County and one in Orange County.
“Because we border Stokes County, which has confirmed cases, we’re considered by state officials to be in contact with the measles,” said Jessica Jessup, assistant director of nursing for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center. “We have no positive cases here, but we certainly have the potential.”
Jessup said that in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly-contagious disease, control measures have been put in place following a Friday conference call with state health officials.
“Right now, we’re attempting to contact community healthcare, day care and school leaders about the possibility of vaccinating people who don’t have documented proof they have received two vaccinations,” she said. “The recommendation for an outbreak is for anyone who doesn’t have proof they received two vaccinations to receive doses, and we’re trying to get the word out.”
Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. It can also be transmitted through contact with secretions from the nose and mouth of an infected person.
Initial symptoms may include fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and cough. After a few days, a rash appears on the head and spreads over the entire body. Measles can also lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children. The condition poses serious risks for pregnant women, including risks of miscarriage and premature birth.
“Children or adults who haven’t been immunized should seriously consider being vaccinated,” Jessup urged. “In a normal immunization schedule, a child would receive one shot at 12 months and a second shortly before the start of school. At this time the recommendation is to follow that protocol.”
For those who are unsure, Jessup said it won’t hurt to receive another vaccination.
“People don’t have to wait,” she said. “As long as it’s been 28 - 30 days since they received a first shot they can be immunized.”
It takes about two weeks after receiving a second dose to become fully immune to measles, Jessup added.
“Measles is very uncommon in North Carolina, so many people aren’t aware of the symptoms,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, state health director. “(It) 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.”
While the early symptoms of the measles can be similar to those of many other infections, Gerald recommends that anyone with fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough should stay at home and limit contact with others to avoid spreading the disease.
Anyone with these symptoms who also develops a rash should seek immediate medical care.
For more information, contact the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center at 401-8325 or visit http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/diseases/rubeola.html.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.