As Iowa faces 2nd measles case, Cedar Rapids schools review outbreak procedures
Thursday, health officials confirmed a second measles case in the northeast part of the state. The victim is connected to the first.
The Iowa Department of Public Health said the situation was contained, but concerns have been growing about possible outbreaks elsewhere.
In "an effort to be proactive," the Cedar Rapids School District sent a message to parents and staff later that day, giving basic pointers on measles, answers to frequently asked questions, and also laid out its procedure if the virus was discovered.
"At this time, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of the measles in our community," the message read. "There is no need for alarm, but as a district, we want to be as prepared as possible to mitigate the spread of measles."
The message went on to say that if a case was detected at a district building, its unvaccinated staff and students and those without proper paperwork would be ordered by public health officials to stay in their home for 21 days.
"We hope it stays away," said Sandy Byard, the district's health services facilitator. "But-- we do want to inform the public and keep people safe."
The district estimated at least 100 of its around 16,000 students lacked proper vaccination, through religious or medicinal exemption. The state of Iowa requires students to have two MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccinations to attend school.
School officials said the unvaccinated are a concern seeing as the virus can spread fast in vulnerable populations.
"Once exposed," said Byard, "if you're not vaccinated, 90% will get the measles."
Though state health officials said there was no current threat to the general public, they were closely monitoring measles cases as they continued to pop up across the country. Iowa's most recent was said to be a person who had "household contact" with the state's first patient. Both were unvaccinated and have been quarantined.
"The entire nation has to be concerned about this," said Pramod Dwivedi, the Health Director at Linn County Public Health. "By the turn of the century, we thought we had eradicated measles. Now, it's coming back."
Dwivedi urged locals to get vaccinated if they were in doubt of their immunity status or even if they had personal reservations.
"It's a danger to public health," said Dwivedi. "You could have medical exemptions. You shouldn't be allowing people to have a philosophical exemption or religious exemptions."
The measles outbreak has stirred anti-vaccination groups into a fervor. Informed Choice Iowa, a group that advocates for more freedom to exempt from vaccinations, said they encourage people to research the ingredients and possible side effects of a vaccine before getting one.