A young adult from Stark County has the state’s first confirmed case of measles since 2017.
The Ohio Department of Health said the person recently traveled to a state with confirmed measles cases.
No identifying information is being released about the individual, so it’s not clear where the person lives or how many people he or she came into contact with.
Across the country, 28 states have reported measles cases, and some are experiencing measles outbreaks, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Officials are urging members of the public to make sure they’ve been vaccinated against the contagious disease.
“One thing is really important: Vaccination is critical,” Stark County Health Department Health Commissioner Kirk Norris said in a news release. “We are lucky to have a high vaccination rate in Stark County and Ohio, so the vast majority of the public is protected.”
Measles is a viral respiratory disease that is highly contagious and can be passed through coughing or sneezing. It was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 but remains common in other parts of the world, including Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Ukraine, and the Philippines.
Symptoms begin to show up 10 to 12 days after exposure. They include a rash that begins at the hairline before traveling down the rest of the body and lasts five to six days. Other symptoms include high fever, runny nose, cough, watery eyes and loss of appetite.
The disease also can cause more serious symptoms, such as such as diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, brain infection, seizures and death.
Ohio’s last measles outbreak was in 2014, with 382 confirmed cases.
As of July 3, there were 1,109 cases of measles in the United States — the largest number in the country since 1992. Cases had been reported in four states neighboring Ohio: Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
The Stark County Health Department on Friday did not provide more details about the local measles case.
Canton City Health Commissioner James Adams, who is not involved with this investigation but spoke about measles investigations generally, said a health department will do follow-up to determine the vaccination status of the person who has measles and the vaccination status of his or her family members or other close contacts.
Then, investigators will look at possible ways the disease could have spread.
What makes measles particularly challenging, Adams said, is the period of several days when a person has no symptoms but still is contagious.
“This pre-phase makes it very, very difficult to control a communicable disease that has this kind of feature because people just don’t know they’re sick,” he said.
State and local health officials on Friday stressed the importance of receiving the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
They suggest people check with their doctors about their vaccination histories and make sure all members of a family have been vaccinated.
“Vaccinations save lives, period. I urge everyone who can, to get vaccinated,” said Amy Acton, director of the state department of health. “Vaccination is the safest, most effective way to prevent serious vaccine-preventable diseases in children and adults, including measles.”
The recommended vaccination schedule for measles is a first dose between 12 and 15 months of age and a second dose between 4 and 6 years of age, though those recommendations shift in the event the child will be traveling internationally.
Teenagers and adults who haven’t received the vaccine and don’t have other evidence of immunity should be vaccinated as soon as possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most recent national statistics for the United States from the CDC show 91% of children ages 19 to 35 months had received one or more doses of the MMR vaccine. In Ohio, the vaccination rate for that age group was among the lowest in the country, at 88.3%.
Stark County’s best measure of MMR vaccination is based on the percentage of kindergartners who are up-to-date on their vaccines. As of Oct. 15, 2018, 91.4% of kindergartners had received two doses of the vaccine, according to the Stark County Health Department.
Among those who were not up-to-date, 38% had a medical reason they couldn’t be vaccinated.
Statewide, 89.1 percent of kindergartners are up-to-date on their vaccines — meaning they received two doses of the vaccine. In the five-county region, Summit County has the lowest percentage of kindergartners who are up to date: 87.6 percent. Portage County has the highest percentage: 93.7 percent. That compares with 92.9 percent in Medina County and 91.5 percent in Wayne County.
Ohio public and private schools report data each fall to the Ohio Department of Health. Some Ohio schools may not submit before the ODH’s cutoff data, and these schools’ data would not be included in the report. This is why the ODH-supplied vaccination rates may differ slightly from weighted vaccination rates published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Beacon Journal staff writer Katie Byard contributed to this report.