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Counties working together to fight measles outbreak

| June 13, 2014

COSHOCTON – Public health officials in the six counties affected by a measles outbreak in north-central Ohio have established a unified command structure to more effectively deal with the outbreak. Most of the Ohio counties affected by the outbreak are rural counties with small health departments whose staff are kept busy with the day-to-day work of public health. The outbreak has over-burdened their workload with additional clinics, increased public awareness and documentation of confirmed cases.

The unified effort involves a daily conference call where confirmed cases are reported, clinics announced, problem areas identified and communication strategies discussed. According Robert Brems with the Coshocton County Health Department, the unified command structure allows for “increased situational awareness, better coordination of resources, and a more organized response” to the largest measles outbreak in the U.S. in 20 years.

In addition to helping one another, the counties are receiving help from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ODH has been supplying needed vaccine for clinics and providing personnel to help with data input. The CDC has provided personnel to visit communities to identify infected individuals and gather contact information.

Response to the measles outbreak is entering its second month and officials expect to see active cases of the disease until the end of summer. From Jan. 1 to May 23, 288 people in the United States have been reported as having measles. The majority of those cases have been in north-central Ohio. Usually only about 60 cases in the United States are reported each year.

Of the 200 plus cases in Ohio, the ages of those infected range from under six months to 58 years and are split almost equally between males and females. There have been some hospitalizations reported; most have recovered on their own.

While there is no treatment for measles, the public health effort concentrates on stopping the spread of the disease. For those that get the disease, that means self- quarantining until they are no longer contagious. For everyone else, it means making sure they are immunized with the MMR vaccine.

Since the end of April, more than 8,500 doses of MMR vaccine has been administered in more than 20 specialty clinics plus on-site health department clinics. Public health nurses from surrounding counties and with the Medical Reserve Corps have been helping to staff additional vaccine clinics.

While the Ohio measles outbreak is currently the largest in the U.S, it is just one of several outbreaks in the country. There are also outbreaks in 17 other states including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington.

In all of the current measles outbreaks, the affected individuals were unvaccinated. Also, the measles virus originated outside the U.S. and was brought into the country by an unvaccinated traveller.

During a CDC tele-briefing last week, Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for immunization and respiratory diseases at the CDC, applauded the efforts of the state and local public health officials.

“We appreciate the hard work of people on the ground who are trying to contain the spread (of measles),” said Schuchat.

Schuchat described the measles outbreak as a “wake-up call” for people to make sure they are vaccinated.

“Thanks to our high vaccination rates and intensive public health responses, the outbreaks in 2014 are being contained, though cases do continue in Ohio and the health departments are working closely with the community to bring that outbreak to an end,” said Schuchat.

For information on measles and upcoming MMR clinics, contact the Coshocton County Health Department’s hotline at 295-7317.

Category: People & Places

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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