Parents urged to check children’s immunization status, watch for symptoms
EMPORIA – A suspected case of measles has prompted local health officials to take steps to protect affected residents.
A student at William Allen White Elementary School had symptoms that caused local healthcare personnel to conduct testing and report the case as suspect to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
While awaiting lab test results, health center staff members will treat the case as positive and reach out to the parents of all affected children in the school.
“Even though this is not a confirmed case, we are working with the school principal and the school district to take care of all these children,” said health center CEO Phillip Davis, who is also Lyon County’s health officer. “We are following all the guidance we receive from KDHE on how to handle the situation and are working very hard to protect the children’s health and prevent the potential spread of disease.”
Staff members will urge parents of the small number of unvaccinated children to come to the health center to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated children who do not receive the vaccine will need to abstain from school activities for three weeks.
“Vaccination rates in Lyon County exceed the state’s average of 93 percent and the Healthy People 2020 goal of 90 percent,” said health center COO Renee Hively, who is a registered nurse. “While we take the situation seriously and always encourage parents to immunize their children according to the schedules recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we don’t expect this to become a measles outbreak.”
Hively said residents should check their immunization statuses, get up to date as needed, and be aware of measles symptoms.
“The best way to keep from getting the disease is by being vaccinated,” Hively said. “Ideally, children are immunized at 12 to 15 months old and again before they enter kindergarten. Vaccines are safe and effective, and they protect the community from disease.”
Measles is a respiratory disease caused by a virus. With the creation of the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, measles cases are rare in the United States; however, it still sickens approximately 20 million and kills 164,000 people worldwide each year.
According to KDHE, measles is highly contagious and is spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. Signs and symptoms typically begin one to two weeks after exposure to an infected person.
Symptoms include fever; a blotchy skin rash, which spreads from the head to the trunk and then to lower extremities; cough; runny nose; red, watery eyes; feeling run down and achy; and tiny white spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth. Measles can be spread to others any time from four days before to four days after a rash appears.
Those at high risk for severe illness and complications from measles include infants and children under age 5, adults over age 20, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
“If someone is showing symptoms of measles, they should stay home and not go to work or participate in other activities,” said health center nurse Melissa Smith. “When making arrangements to see a medical provider, they should call ahead so medical staff can take appropriate measures to protect other patients and staff from exposure.”
For more information on measles, visit www.cdc.gov/measles.
There have also been nearly 100 recently reported cases of mumps in Kansas.
“In addition to measles, the MMR vaccine also protects against mumps, so this is another reason to be up to date on vaccinations,” Smith said. “Many cases in Kansas have been associated with participation in sports and with universities, so it’s wise to be protected and know what symptoms to watch for.”
According to KDHE, mumps is an acute viral infection transmitted through coughing, sneezing or talking; sharing cups or utensils; or touching objects or surfaces freshly soiled by infected respiratory secretions. Symptoms start with body aches, loss of appetite, fatigue, headache, and low-grade fever – eventually progressing to swollen salivary glands on one or both sides.
Symptoms usually appear 16-18 days after being infected, and mumps can be spread to others any time from two days before to five days after the onset of swelling.
For more information on mumps, visit www.cdc.gov/mumps.
Information thanks to Flint Hills Community Health Center.