Measles in east Kansas so far


By John Green

By John Green

Special to The Telegram

The U.S. is witnessing its largest measles outbreak since eliminating the disease in this country 2000, including a rash of cases in the Kansas City area.

Kansas has recorded no cases outside of Johnson County, said Reno County Health Department Director Julia Hulsey, but it's important for the public to be aware and take preventive measures, particularly through vaccination.

he Center for Disease Control's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases reported 539 confirmed cases in 20 states, including 13 in Kansas as of last week.

At least 17 locales had reported outbreaks, Hulsey said, which is defined as 3 or more confirmed cases. Those 17 locations account for 88 percent of this year's cases, according to the CDC.

Measles, which are highly contagious, cause fever, runny nose, cough and rash all over the body. The disease can spread even before the rash shows up.

The majority of the people getting the disease were unvaccinated. It can be prevented with a measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) or MMR plus varicella (MMRV) shot, which also protects against chicken pox, Hulsey said.

"We have plenty of it" Hulsey said of the vaccine.

The vaccine itself is free, but there is a $14 administration fee for getting a shot at the health department, Hulsey said. The fee can be reduced on a sliding scale, based on income.

U.S. health officials declared measles eliminated from this country in 2000, meaning the disease is no longer native to the United States. It is still common in many parts of the world, however, and officials believe many of the cases in the current outbreak are associated with a continuing outbreak in the Philippines.

Last year there were 11 outbreaks in the U.S., but only about 160 total cases were reported. Since 2001, the median annual number of cases in the U.S. was 60, according to the CDC.

Skeeters and ticks

Hulsey on Tuesday also updated the Reno County Commissioners on this year's levels of mosquitoes and ticks.

"Ticks are very prominent this year," Hulsey said, though she couldn't explain why numbers were high.

While there have been documented cases of both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease in Kansas, none have been documented in Reno County, she said.

With recent rains and temperatures beginning to warm, mosquito numbers also appear to be rising.

Again, there have been no documented cases in the county — or the entire state — of West Nile Virus this year. That compares sharply with last year, when there were more than 90 cases, including 35 neuroinvasive cases and seven deaths.

Hulsey recommended people take preventive measures, including wearing bug spray with at least 23 percent DEET — which protects against both mosquitoes and ticks — and ensuring there's no standing water on their property. If there is standing water that can't be emptied or drained, residents should treat it with larvicide.

"Be outdoors and enjoy it — but protect yourself," she advised.

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