Local News

Judge upholds Wake measles quarantine

Posted August 12, 2016 3:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 12, 2016 7:03 p.m. EDT

— A Wake County family is fighting a mandatory quarantine after a boy contracted measles overseas.

Local public health officials confirmed the boy had the virus on Aug. 2 – nine days after the family returned from a European vacation – and they ordered the family remain quarantined at home for three weeks while checking themselves daily for symptoms.

Measles is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms begin with a fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes, followed by a rash that typically appears first on the face, along the hairline or behind the ears and then spreads to the rest of the body.

Complications from measles can include pneumonia, diarrhea and ear infections. Severe complications can be fatal. Infants, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are more at risk of complications from measles, officials said.

Immunization is the best protection from measles. Two doses of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine are about 97 percent effective at preventing a person from contracting the disease.

"If you put 10 people in the room who are not vaccinated and expose them to a case of measles, nine of them would become sick. So, that kind of tells you the importance of getting vaccinated," said Dr. Kimberly McDonald, medical director of Wake County Human Services.

Quarantine orders are often issued in cases of communicable diseases, and violating one could result in up to two years in jail.

The boy's parents were released from the quarantine after submitting immunization records showing they had been vaccinated against measles, but they couldn't produce records for their daughter, according to a court filing.

The girl hasn't exhibited any symptoms of measles, but county health officials denied the family's request to have her tested for antibodies to demonstrate that she is immune to the virus, the court filing states.

"(The family) believes that Department is unfamiliar with proper quarantine procedures and is improvising to (the family's) detriment," the filing states.

The names of those involved have been redacted from the filing.

The family wants the girl released from the quarantine because of job obligations and their desire to attend a friend's wedding, according to the court filing.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway held a hearing Thursday over the phone and upheld the quarantine, which runs through Aug. 23.