UPDATE: Measles Case Closes Charlottesville School

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

May 27, 2011

The Charlottesville Health Department has confirmed three residents of the Thomas Jefferson Health District have contracted measles, an extremely contagious viral respiratory illness that affects respiratory cells and is spread through the air.

Dr. Lilian Peake stated the initial case was confirmed on May 19. An adult female resident of Charlottesville was hospitalized after reportedly contracting the virus while traveling in India. She has since been released and is doing well.

While the female did have little interaction with the community before the infection was detected, two people she did come into contact with now have the measles as well, the fourth and fifth confirmed cases in Virginia this year. Neither individual was hospitalized for treatment and both are resting at home.

The school released a statement Thursday evening saying one of the confirmed cases was from a student at the school. An official told CBS19 the 7th grade student contracted measles from a visitor to his/her home and has since come in contact with more than 200 people at the school. The Health Department has spoken with 80 of those people, of which nearly half, 35, reportedly have not been vaccinated.

The Waldorf School notified all parents of non-vaccinated children who were in attendance on Friday, May 20, that these students are required to stay off school grounds through the last day of the school year, June 10. Officials also canceled classes on Friday, May 27 and instead will hold a Vaccination Clinic in the music and arts building from 10am until 1pm.

The complete statement from the school can be found here.

Dr. Peake says possible additional exposures in the community could have taken place on particular areas of the Downtown Mall between the hours of 4:30pm and 9pm. Those locations include: the area outside The Paramount Theater between 4:30pm and 9pm, Marco & Luca Dumpling Store between 6:30pm and 9pm and and Chaps Ice Cream between 7pm and 9pm.

People who were in those areas on May 20 may have been exposed. Dr. Peake stressed that most citizens are immune to contracting the measles. She says 99 percent of people who have had two doses of the vaccine are immune.

"It's important to remember that most people are immune. Most people have had the vaccination; it's a very safe and effective vaccine. So most people will be immune and not develop disease," she explained.

Conversely, 90 percent of people who are not immune will contract measles when exposed to the disease.

For those individuals who have not been vaccinated, Dr. Peake advises they monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of measles. Those include: four-day fevers, cough, runny nose, red eyes. The fever could reach 104 °F. The classic measles rash usually begins several days after the fever starts. It starts on the head before spreading to cover most of the body, often causing itching.

People who do develop and symptoms should immediately isolate themselves and contact a doctor. Do not go to the doctor's office to avoid spreading the virus.

The first measles vaccine is given to children between the age of 12 and 15 months and the second dose is given prior to attending Kindergarten. Dr. Peake says vaccines are readily available for people who received one or no dose.

Requirements to enter public or private school are two doses of the measles vaccine. However, people can be exempt for either religious or medical reasons and enter school without having the vaccine. The Health Department is actively contacting the parents of every student at Charlottesville Waldorf School to determine who is and is not vaccinated.

Dr. Peake stressed that people should no panic. Instead, she suggested residents educated themselves about measles, learn the signs and symptoms and just be cognizant.

The last case of measles in the Thomas Jefferson Health District was in 1990.

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