Three cases of suspected measles have been reported this week in Douglas County, local health officials say.
Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said today that two suspected cases of measles or "rash illnesses" have been reported to the department.
Another suspected case was reported Monday at Kansas University.
Dr. Charles Yockey, chief of staff at Watkins Memorial Health Center, said a KU student was evaluated Monday for what appears to be measles. "Our student has all the clinical symptoms," he said, but health officials won't know for sure for another two or three weeks, when they have the blood test results.
IT'S VERY difficult to make a clinical diagnosis of measles, Yockey said, explaining that at least half of the suspected cases last year turned out not to be measles.
"That's why the blood test is so important," he said.
If it turns out to be measles, "it's unlikely this will be an isolated case," Yockey said. "The question is, will it be two or three more or a bunch more?"
In the meantime, Watkins officials are contacting the student's acquaintances to make sure they've been vaccinated. Yockey recommends an MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccination for students who think they may have been exposed to measles and who haven't been vaccinated since 1980.
Symptoms include a red, blotchy rash that usually appears first on the face and an accompanying fever of at least 101 degrees. Other symptoms include sore throat, cough, headache and muscle ache and watery discharge from eyes and nose.
COMPLICATIONS of measles include severe ear infection, pneumonia, convulsions, encephalitis and even death in some cases.
Mrs. Schnitker said people who suspect they've been exposed to measles should contact the health department at 843-0721 and check their immunization records.
People born before 1957 did not receive an MMR shot as normal procedure. Vaccines were not available before 1957, so nearly everybody contracted the disease, making them naturally immune to it now.
The vaccine was licensed and began being used in 1963 and boasts a 90- to 95-percent effectiveness rate.
Mrs. Schnitker said patients are still considered to be contagious up to four days after the rash goes away. Measles is spread by direct contact or by coughing and sneezing, she said.