Louisville public health officials warn of uptick in measles cases

Published 4:00 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

By Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

LOUISVILLE – Officials with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) are warning that the number of measles cases are rising, putting those who have not been immunized in danger of contracting the illness.

They note that in late 2022, an outbreak of measles sickened 85 children in Columbus, Ohio, sending more than 40% of them to the hospital. In recent weeks, measles cases have been on the rise once again, with outbreaks identified in communities across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that between Dec. 1, 2023, and Jan. 23, 2024, there were 23 confirmed cases of measles in the United States. Among these 23 cases, there were two outbreaks of more than five cases and seven were imported by international travelers. Most cases were among children and adolescents who were not vaccinated against measles, despite being old enough to get the vaccine.

According to LMPHW, there are currently no confirmed cases of measles in Kentucky, although there were a few in 2023. With measles on the rise in the US and abroad, including a 45-fold increase in cases in European nations last year, the chances of the virus arriving are increasing.

Common symptoms include cough, runny nose, red eyes and a rash that begins on the head and face and spreads down the body. The measles virus is extremely contagious and can lead to severe complications, including pneumonia, diarrhea causing dehydration, and brain inflammation. Complications are most common in babies, young children, and adults over 20 years old.

It is spread through the air by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can stay in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has left the area, which means you can get infected simply by being in a room occupied by an infected person.

Two doses of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine are 96% effective against measles and generally provide life-long protection. The first dose is given at 12-15 months of age and the second before entry to kindergarten. Catch up doses can be given at any age.

If you or your child need the MMR vaccine, contact your healthcare provider. If you aren’t sure if you or your child has been vaccinated against measles, you can request vaccination records from the Kentucky Immunization Registry online, calling 502-564-0038, or emailing KYIRHelpdesk@ky.gov.