Health officials push measles vaccine after confirmed case in Iowa

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) At least one person in Iowa has the measles, the first in the state since 2011. Across the country, the number of measles cases is rising drastically.

Photo courtesy: MGN

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report at least 555 measles cases in the United States just this year, in 2018 just 387 cases were reported.

Workers from Iowa Department of Public Health are checking on others who may have had recent contact with the person infected with measles. Officials said the case is based in northeast Iowa but did not specify the county or the person's age or gender, citing privacy concerns.

The person was not vaccinated and recently took a trip to Israel, where measles is spreading.

The measles virus is one of the most contagious diseases on Earth. The virus can linger in the air, or on surfaces, for two hours.

“So someone with the measles is in the elevator, they get off, you get on an hour later and you're susceptible you have a 90 percent chance of contracting measles,” said Heather Meador, Clinical Services Branch Supervisor at Linn County Public Health.

Meador said it’s important for people to take all precautions. The best form of that is the vaccine, which happens in two doses. "If you don't know your vaccine history, you can't find your records, we recommend you go get another dose of vaccine, it will not hurt you.”

Health officials said getting the vaccination is the best way to safeguard against the disease.

Not everyone in Iowa is quick to sign up for the vaccine. Shortly after the newest confirmed case in the state, Informed Choice Iowa posted its concerns on social media.

"Research the ingredients, the possible side effects, have some genetic testing done,” said Shanda Burke with Informed Choice Iowa. “Completely up to the individual we don't encourage people to vaccinate or not to vaccinate."

But not vaccinating is part of the problem, according to health officials. The CDC declared measles eliminated from the U.S. in 2000 because of vaccination. Officials said outbreaks are on the rise because of people opting not to get the vaccine.

“We know that not everyone will respond to the vaccine so the more people we have in the community that are protected, they help to form this herd to protect you from contracting it,” Meador said.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, statewide 82% of children ages 13 to 15 have had two doses of the vaccine. In Linn County the rate is 75%; 64% in Johnson County; 68% in Dubuque County; and 91% percent in Black Hawk County.

Public health departments nationwide have a few programs to offer the measles vaccine for free, if a child's family doesn't have insurance or is on Medicaid.