By Belinda M. Paschal
Vaccination is crucial in stemming the spread of measles, according to local health officials in response to the outbreak of at least 26 cases over five Ohio counties.
“Vaccination is always the best prevention,” said Linda Ptak, an epidemiologist for Miami County Public Health, who said the last confirmed case of measles she has seen in this area was in 2006, involving a child visiting from another country.
Earlier this week, the Ohio Department of Health reported 19 cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness in Knox County, located in north central Ohio. As of Tuesday, Ashland County reported four cases, while Richland, Coshocton and Wayne counties each had one confirmed case of measles.
Officials say the outbreak began with unvaccinated travelers visiting the Philippines, which has had a measles epidemic.
“It’s important for children and adolescents to be vaccinated, as well as anyone going overseas to make sure they have what they need to protect them against whatever they may encounter when they’re traveling,” said Nate Bednar, public information officer for Miami County Public Health.
Miami County Public Health nurse Donna Youtz said when parents refuse to have their children immunized, they are asked to sign a waiver form. “We explain that that are putting their kids at risk by not having them vaccinated.”
Youtz said the primary reason parents might refuse having their child vaccinated is “false information,” such as controversial studies linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to disorders like autism. She added that celebrities like Jenny McCarthy do the public a great disservice by perpetuating such claims.
“We refer (the parents)to reputable websites for information about diseases like measles,” she said.
To educate the Shelby County community, nurses at the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department have purchased books about information and donated them to the local libraries, said Director of Nursing Margie Eilerman. “These books contain good, solid information on immunization,” she said.
There is an abundance of information available, particularly on the Centers for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov), “to assure parents and the public on the safety of vaccines, but there are individuals, regardless of the information provided, that do no accept the importance and protection from vaccines,” said Linda Smith, infection prevention specialist and employee health nurse at Wilson Memorial Hospital in Sidney.
Citing information from the ODH, Youtz said that measles kills almost 1 million children in the world each year. Other statistics from the ODH, as well as the CDC, regarding complications of measles include:
• 1 in 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia
• 1 in 1,000 will develop encephalitis
• 1 in 10 will develop ear infections, which may cause permanent hearing loss
• For every 1,000 children infected with measles, 1-2 will die from the disease
“Almost 90 percent of people who come into contact with people who have it will get it,” Youtz said. “The main thing is to get vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine.”
Eilerman agreed, explaining that children should be vaccinated at one year of age and upon entering kindergarten. Also, she added, “If you were born before 1957, you should receive at least one MMR and if you’re traveling internationally, we recommend that you receive a total of two doses.”
Smith said Wilson Memorial is working in conjunction with the health department for updates about the outbreak. “Our public health department is watching the situation closely and keeps us abreast of the status and provides us any further information we need to be aware of and relay to our medical providers,” she said.
“I would encourage people to read and educate themselves on the multiple resources provided through the CDC. Besides articles, there are testimonial video clips, pictures of the diseases with explanations of the impacts on one’s health should they acquire the disease. Discussing with your physician and/or the health department are also other options.”
The measles outbreak coincides with National Infant Immunization Week, which runs through Saturday, May 3 and is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control.
“The CDC promotes it for a week, but we celebrate it year-round,” Bednar said.
Miami County Public Health, 510 W. Water St., #130, Troy, provides immunizations each Tuesday from 8-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., and every Thursday from 8-11 a.m., as well as every first Thursday of the month from 4-6:30 p.m., with additional hours in August and September for children returning to school.
These clinics are on a walk-in basis. The nursing department also will schedule appointments on an as-needed basis. Parents or guardians must bring the child’s immunization record and be with the child or send written permission. The cost is $17 per shot, with a maximum of $51 per child. No one is denied due to inability to pay. Medicaid is accepted. The clinic does not bill private insurances, but will give the client a receipt to file with their insurance company.
For more information, call (937) 573-3500 or visit www.miamicountyhealth.net.
Located at 202 W. Poplar St., the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department offers vaccine services by appointment. For times and other information, call (937) 498-7249 or visit www.shelbycountyhealthdept.org.
Belinda M. Paschal may be reached at (937) 773-2721 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.