Three infants in Johnson County are among the first reported cases of measles in the United States this year.
The Johnson County Health Department said Tuesday that the three infants, all under a year old, had been at the same day care center in Overland Park.
Nationwide, there have been just 13 measles cases this year as of late February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and none in Kansas. Nancy Tausz, Health Service Division Director of the Johnson County Health Department, says the emergence of the virus should serve as a reminder of why the vaccine is so important.
“Measles is still out there, and people get kind of complacent with vaccines, but you certainly don’t want to get measles,” Tausz says.
Although the Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR) vaccine has dramatically reduced the toll of measles in the U.S. in recent decades, more than 10 percent of Kansas children don’t receive it.
The MMR vaccine is required for children in Kansas to attend day care, but the infants who contracted the measles were too young to be vaccinated. Children are typically given their first dose of the two-dose vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age.
The day care center has notified parents and temporarily removed the infants with measles and other children who may have been exposed to the virus.
Common measles symptoms include coughing, fever, sneezing, red eyes and rashes.
Tausz advises parents whose children have these symptoms and were exposed to the virus to take care to avoid spreading the highly contagious disease.
Tausz says they should call ahead to a doctor’s office to let them know they suspect their child has measles. The virus is so contagious that an exam room where a child with measles has been seen cannot be used for two hours after the exam takes place.
Alex Smith is a health reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @AlexSmithKCUR