Measles Cases and Free Vaccines in North Carolina

Los Angeles is not the only county offering free vaccines recently – Randolph County Health Department just announced that it is offering free measles vaccines this week due to eight cases that have surfaced in nearby Stokes and Orange counties, North Carolina.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services notified all state health care providers of these cases on April 17. The first, or index, case reportedly developed symptoms on April 4. The index case recently returned from a trip to India, though the memo did not confirm if the disease was picked up in India or in the United States. The state laboratory confirmed measles on April 16. Since then, seven additional cases have been diagnosed. According to the Department of Health, none of the cases had been vaccinated against measles. Stokes, Orange and other neighboring counties are investigating who else may have been exposed to measles.

According to news reports, the State Health Director, Dr. Laura Gerald says that measles is “very uncommon” in North Carolina.

In fact, measles has been eliminated from the United States since 2000, which means that measles is no longer endemic in the United States. So, the only cases that show up in the country have been imported from international travel. We see about fifty imported cases a year. Prior to the measles vaccine, the CDC reports that measles caused about 450 deaths every year, 48,000 hospitalizations, and approximately 1,000 cases of permanent brain damage or hearing loss.

Symptoms of measles typically include fever, runny nose and a rash. Severe or complicated cases of measles may cause ear infection, pneumonia, encephalitis, or death. But this can all be prevented with a vaccine. The measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR vaccine) is a live, attenuated (or weakened) vaccine. Two doses are recommended for all children; adult recommendations vary. They can be found on the CDC website. According to the CDC, the MMR vaccine has reduced measles in the United States by about 99 percent. Despite the vaccine, the United States still sees between 50 and 100 cases each year that have been imported from measles endemic countries, or countries in which vaccination rates are decreasing.

Wales is currently in the midst of a massive outbreak of measles. Since November 2012, a total of 942 cases of measles have been documented in Wales. Health officials are asking all people who have not been vaccinated to get the MMR vaccine.

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