Kent Co. Health Department keeping eye on measles outbreak

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Kent County Health Department is keeping a watchful eye on the growing number of measles cases in southeast Michigan.

As of Sunday, there were 41 confirmed cases of measles in the state. While they are concentrated in Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, Kent County officials are asking citizens to be careful.

Brian Hartl, epidemiology supervisor at the Kent County Health Department, says the best way to avoid the disease is to get vaccinated.

“Most people get them as a baby then, the first dose you usually get at 12-15 months of age, then the second dose comes as 4 to 6 years of age,” Hartl said. “The first dose is highly effective about 95 percent effective, second dose gives you a boost close to 99 percent.”

He says vaccinations work best because measles is transmitted through an airborne virus that can be transferred through droplets.

“Most of the time we talk about preventative measures: washing your hands, covering your coughs, stuff like that,” Hartl said. “But like I said, measles is one of the most highly contagious viruses out there. Can be transmitted through the air if someone’s in a room for a while it can transfer, stay in there for two hours.”

In addition to stressing the importance of vaccination, the health department is preparing physicians for the possibility of diagnosing measles.

“A lot of physicians probably haven’t seen measles in their careers, so we want to make sure they’re aware of what to look for, ask people questions about where they’ve traveled, what to do if they have a patient who is high risk travel history and history of measles, how to test. Making sure we’re not exposing more people,” Hartl said.

For those who aren’t sure about their vaccination status, Hartl says to check with a local health care provider. The Kent County Health Department’s vaccination line can be reached at 616-632-7200.

For more information on where international outbreaks are, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

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