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Department of Health News

Update: What You Need to Know About Measles and Buncombe County


A message from our Medical Director

Between Jan. 1 and April 26, 2019, there were 704 cases of measles in 22 states across the US. This is the highest number of measles cases reported in the country since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.  As of Wednesday, May 1, there are three cases of measles in East Tennessee.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that can cause serious health issues. Measles starts with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Three to five days later, a rash of red spots and bumps starts on the face and spreads down to the rest of the body.

Measles spreads through the air through coughing and sneezing, and can live for up to two hours in the airspace where a person sick with measles has been. Measles spreads so easily that if one person has it, nine out of 10 non-immune people close to them will also become sick with measles. Additionally, people with measles can spread it to others starting four days before their rash appears.

Measles can be serious in all age groups. One out of four people who get measles will be hospitalized. It can be most dangerous for children less than five years of age. Up to one out of 20 children with measles will develop pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children. One child in 1000 with measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which can lead to hearing loss or other disabilities. And one to two children with measles will die from it. In a pregnant woman, measles can cause premature birth or a low birthweight baby.

As of May 1, we are not aware of any measles cases in Buncombe County. However, we must be prepared for measles since we know that our community has a low immunization rate. Because it is so easily spread, measles could spread like wildfire in our community.

 

Buncombe County HHS is sharing information with medical providers so they are ready to identify, test and appropriately manage suspected measles cases. Our Communicable Disease Control Team is monitoring the situation and is always on-call, 24-7, to respond to reports of suspected cases. Our number one goal is to protect the public’s health. If you suspect you or a loved one may have measles, contact your healthcare provider. 

The MMR vaccine is the best protection against measles. Everyone in our community plays an important role in creating and maintaining the shield of protection that immunizations provide. We continue to urge community members to be fully immunized.

 

The bottom line is that if your child is not fully immunized, they are at risk for getting measles. If you haven’t already, now is the time to contact your healthcare provider or our immunization clinic to find out which immunizations you or your child might need. Keep yourself and others safe by getting immunized today.

If you are unsure of your immunization status, we encourage you to find out which immunizations you or your child might need. The HHS Immunization Clinic can be reached at (828) 250-5096. We accept most insurances and can provide immunizations on a sliding scale for those who qualify. We are located at 40 Coxe Ave. in downtown Asheville, across from the bus station. Our Immunization Clinic offers walk-in immunizations Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. We ask that clients check-in by 4:30 p.m.

Immunizations are a shield of protection against contagious and dangerous diseases such as measles. Keep yourself and others safe by getting immunized today.