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Measles in Mon County

An adult living in Monongalia County has the first confirmed case of measles in West Virginia in 15 years.

Monongalia County Health Department learned Sunday that a case of measles (rubeola) was confirmed in Morgantown.

Officials from WVU Medicine notified the health department Sunday and MCHD made the case public Monday.

The two entities are working together on the case.

MCHD was in contact with WVU Medicine once measles was suspected last week and the patient was instructed to isolate at home.

“Monongalia County Health Department is diligently working with WVU Medicine to identify all people who came into contact with the patient within the WVU Medicine system and is actively reaching out to inform those individuals of the exposure,” said Dr. Brian H. Huggins, MCHD’s incoming health officer.

“Additionally, MCHD is in conversation with the patient to identify other places this individual traveled while symptomatic.”

Anyone identified through this investigation as having been exposed will also be notified, Huggins said.

The adult resident of Monongalia County developed symptoms and sought medical treatment through the WVU Medicine System. The patient was instructed to isolate at home. Lab work was confirmed positive for measles on Sunday.

A WVU Medicine spokesperson said the patient went to an outpatient clinic, but did not require hospitalization and is recovering at home.

Close contacts, including family members, were educated on isolation and symptom identification, said Edward Abbott, RN, program manager of MCHD Infection Control and Disease Prevention.

Measles is a highly contagious viral infection. Symptoms can present seven to 14 days after exposure and include high fever that can spike to more than 104 degrees, cough, runny nose and red watery eyes. Three to five days after symptoms begin, a rash will form, starting on the face and spreading downward to the trunk and limbs.

According to WVU Medicine, tiny white spots (Koplik spots) may appear inside the mouth two-to-three days after symptoms begin.

Measles can be dangerous, especially for babies and young children. Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from complications. Common complications are ear infections and diarrhea. Serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis.

In one out of every 1,000 measles cases, patients can develop encephalitis and subsequent brain damage. One to three of every 1,000 children infected with measles will die from respiratory and/or neurologic complications.

“We really want to emphasize that this is an illness that people should take very seriously,” Huggins said.

The risk for fully vaccinated individuals of developing the disease is very low, he added. In an unvaccinated population, each infected person can on average spread the disease to nine or 10 people.

If an individual with measles leaves a room, the virus can hang in the air and infect others for up to two hours. People are contagious from four days prior to and four days after the rash appears, Huggins said.

It’s important to note, Huggins added, that individuals who believe they have symptoms consistent with measles should first call their health-care provider’s office to make an arrangement to be seen safely.

“Because of the highly infectious nature of the disease, it is not recommended that individuals just present to a health-care facility, ” Huggins said.

Measles was declared eradicated in 2000. Because of West Virginia’s strict school vaccination laws, the state had not been affected by recent outbreaks that have taken place in several areas of the
United States. This is the first known measles case in West Virginia since 2009.

Measles is a vaccine-preventable disease via the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). To receive an MMR vaccine, call Monongalia County Health Department to make an appointment at 304-598-5119. “Immunity from the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine can wane over time. If you are concerned about your immunity status, you can ask your healthcare provider to check for antibodies in your blood via a titer,” Huggins said.