Potential measles cases being monitored in Mercer and McDowell Counties


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Area health officials were watching for possible measles cases Monday after the state health department warned that 30 counties, including Mercer and McDowell, had people who were possibly exposed to the highly-contagious disease.

The West Virginia Department of Health has been monitoring measles transmission ever since the state's first documented case since 2009 was reported April 22. After that report, health officials learned of 152 other people who were potentially exposed, 128 West Virginia residents from 30 counties and 24 out-of-state contacts from four neighboring states. Sixty-two of those exposed in West Virginia lacked documentation of adequate protection against measles and were considered high risk.

The impacted counties in West Virginia include Mercer and McDowell as well as Berkeley, Braxton, Brooke, Doddridge, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hancock, Kanawha, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mason, Mineral, Monongalia, Ohio, Pendleton, Pleasants, Preston, Putnam, Randolph, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Wetzel and Wood.

Administrator Lynn Legg with the Mercer County Health Department said Monday that no measles cases had been reported.

"But we're all aware of what's going on and doing our best to be prepared," she said.

People suspecting that they have measles or were exposed to it should not go out in public.

"The best thing is to stay away from everybody because it's very contagious," Legg said.

Legg said that people who believe they have measles should call their physician immediately. Residents should now consider getting vaccinated against the disease.

"Taking that vaccine will definitely, for the most part, prevent you from getting measles," she said. "Now is the time."

People who are unsure if they should get a measles vaccination can ask their doctor about getting a measles titer, which is a blood test for their level of immunity to the disease, Legg said.

Vaccinations are available at the Mercer County Health Department at 978 Blue Prince Road in Bluefield.

"We give vaccines Monday through Friday, 9 (a.m.) to 3 p.m.," she said.

The people seeking a vaccination should bring their insurance card. If a child is to be vaccinated, a parent must be with them, Legg said.

They should also bring a vaccination card. If they do not have one, the health department can look up their vaccination status on the West Virginia Statewide Immunization Information System.

Officials with the McDowell County Health Department were not available Monday.

The Bureau for Public Health is strongly recommending exposed individuals with no evidence of immunity against the virus to quarantine until May 9 or 10, depending on their last date of exposure, bureau officials said.

As state health leaders work with the Monongalia Health Department to conduct contact tracing and other control activities, Dr. Matthew Christiansen, State Health Officer, said that West Virginians with questions about their immunity should get tested.

"Measles is a serious disease that can cause severe symptoms especially in the most vulnerable kids and adults who are immunocompromised," Christiansen said. "The MMR vaccine is the best line of defense against measles. If you are unsure about your vaccination history, you can either get vaccinated or a blood test can be ordered through your local health care provider to determine your level of immunity."

The measles vaccine is typically given in two doses with the first recommended between 12 and 15 months of age. The second dose is recommended between four and six years and, in West Virginia, is required before entering Kindergarten.

Unless they have other evidence of immunity, adults born after 1956 should get at least one dose of MMR vaccine, and two appropriately spaced doses of MMR vaccines are recommended for health care personnel, college students and international travelers. The Bureau for Public Health recommends the safe and effective MMR vaccination as part of routine schedule for all children and adults.

With summer travel coming up and people going to and coming from countries that have seen sharp upticks in measles cases, the time is now to be sure you and your family members are up-to-date on their MMR vaccine.

MMR vaccines are available through health care providers and local health departments across the state.

No further details regarding the possible exposures were released.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com