For Release – May 29, 2019 – Jamie Dukes, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) and the Okmulgee County Health Department have identified three additional cases of measles in Okmulgee County. All three cases are close contacts of the initial case announced by OSDH on May 15. There have now been a total of four cases of measles in Oklahoma in 2019. No new cases of measles have been identified in any counties outside of Okmulgee County. As of May 24, there have been 940 cases of measles reported in 26 states.This is the highest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994.
State Epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said the investigation continues to involve efforts of public health staff at the OSDH, Okmulgee and other local County Health Departments, and Tulsa Health Department. Interviews were completed for more than 250 individuals that were affiliated with settings where an exposure to the original case of measles may have occurred.
“This is a coordinated effort by a number of public health professionals,” said Burnsed. “It is important for us to identify settings where individuals may have been exposed to advise them of their risk and implement measures to prevent the spread of illness to those who may be unvaccinated, and persons who may be at greater risk of illness due to compromised immune systems or children who may not be old enough to receive full protection.”
The initial case of measles announced on May 15 was a person who returned to Oklahoma after traveling to various domestic and international destinations. The virus is still common in many parts of the world with outbreaks occurring in Europe, Israel, Ukraine, and the Philippines. These outbreaks have resulted in travelers who develop illness in the U.S. following their return. In addition to the high number of cases, there are outbreaks ongoing in several states.
Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease and spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus may remain airborne up to two hours in a room after the person with measles has left an indoor area. Those who are susceptible to measles usually develop symptoms about 10 days after exposure with a range of 7-21 days.
Symptoms of measles begin with a mild to moderate fever, runny nose, red eyes, and cough. A few days later, a rash appears starting on the face spreading to the rest of the body accompanied by a fever that can reach up to 105 degrees. Measles can lead to pneumonia and other complications, especially in young children and adults over 20 years of age. The disease can also cause serious problems in pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. A person with measles can spread the virus up to four days before the onset of the rash and until four days after the rash begins.
Approximately 90 percent of U.S. cases reported so far this year were either unvaccinated or had an unknown history of vaccination against measles. Measles can be prevented with the measles vaccine usually given in combination with rubella and mumps, called MMR vaccine, and is recommended for all children at 12 to 15 months of age and again at 4 to 6 years of age. If a person has not received a second dose of the vaccine between 4 to 6 years of age, the booster dose may be given at any age thereafter. Two doses of vaccine normally provide lifelong immunity.