Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday it is investigating an outbreak of measles in Orange and Stokes counties.
Seven cases have been reported. Orange County health officials said their only confirmed case was a student who attends private school.
The school and other potential contacts have been notified and given control measures to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Measles is very uncommon in North Carolina, so many people aren’t aware of the symptoms,” State health director Dr. Laura Gerald said in a statement. “Measles spreads quickly, particularly in children and adults who aren’t vaccinated. We want to make the public aware of this outbreak so individuals can take steps to protect themselves and their families.”
Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing. It also can be transmitted through contact with secretions from the nose or mouth of an infected person.
Initial symptoms may include fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and cough. After a few days, a rash appears on the head and spreads over the entire body.
Measles complications are dangerous. Six to 20 percent of the people who get the disease will get an ear infection, diarrhea or pneumonia, especially young children. One out of 1,000 people with measles will develop inflammation of the brain (meningitis), and about one out of 1,000 will die.
The disease also poses serious risks for pregnant women, including miscarriage and premature birth.
Although the early symptoms of measles can be similar to those of many other infections, Gerald recommends that anyone with fever, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough should stay at home and limit contact with others to avoid spreading illness.
If a rash develops or if symptoms worsen, call a doctor or seek medical care. Those who seek medical care should call their doctor’s office or health care facility before going so they can prepare for the visit and protect other patients from exposure.
Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. It is important for all individuals 12 months of age and older to be vaccinated.
“Vaccine is readily available,” Gerald said. “Anyone interested in getting vaccinated should contact their primary health care provider or their local health department.”