Guilford County Health Director Merle Green said this week that she and other health officials have concerns that measles may become an “emerging infection” here as it has elsewhere in the country, and the county is taking steps to counter that threat. Green said the new emphasis on the problem is a result of a communication from the national Centers for Disease Control.
“We became concerned when we read the following recent statement from the Centers for Disease Control,” Green stated on Thursday, April 25. “It is alarming and eye-opening.”
That statement from the CDC reads: “From January 1 to April 19, 2019, 626 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 22 states. This is an increase of 71 cases from the previous week. This is the second-greatest number of cases reported in the US since measles was eliminated in 2000, second only to the 667 cases reported during all of 2014. In the coming weeks, 2019 confirmed case numbers will likely surpass 2014 levels.”
The possibility of a measles problem in Guilford County was a topic this week at a county staff meeting held to brief the commissioners on the agenda for their upcoming May meeting. Staff gave the commissioners at the meeting a heads up that this would be a topic under discussion.
Green said the renewed emphasis on the threat is due to the fact that citizens must take action now to avoid a measles problem this year.
“Our plea to Guilford residents is to assure that they are vaccinated against measles now and particularly before traveling this summer,” she said. “As of late April 2019, measles outbreaks related to unvaccinated international travelers are occurring in various areas.”
She said those include New Jersey, Washington DC, California, Michigan and the state of New York.
“With our population being very mobile, we want to heighten the awareness of Guilford residents as they begin their spring and summer vacations domestically and internationally,” Green said.
The county’s health director said that, though the US saw measles essentially eradicated years ago, it remains a common disease in other parts of the world. Therefore, Green said, anyone who isn’t protected against the disease is at a greater risk of becoming infected whenever they travel internationally.
She said that both children and adults must make sure they are up to date on their measles vaccinations.
The Guilford County Health Department provides a combination vaccine that protects against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. Green said that that vaccine is proven to be very safe and effective; and the CDC recommends that children get one dose at each of the following ages: the first between 12 months and 15 months of age, and the second at four years through six years of age.
According to a statement from the CDC, “Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90 percent of the people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected.”
Though medical officials say the vaccine is safe, there is a large and recalcitrant group of people in the country who believe that the vaccine can be very dangerous. Those in that camp often point to the fact that medical and health professionals have at times offered very misguided advice in the past.