The number of cases of suspected measles has risen to five in Douglas County, health officials said today.
Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said the total includes two new cases that were reported Thursday afternoon. The two latest cases involve infants. The three cases reported earlier this week involved two Kansas University students and a Lawrence adult, Mrs. Schnitker said.
Four of the people involved live in Lawrence, she said, and one of the two children lives in the Baldwin area.
None of the cases of measles will be confirmed until late this month, when the blood test results are in, she said.
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.
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 who have a rash and fever are encouraged to go to their doctors for an examination, she said.
People born before 1957, when the measles vaccine became available, likely contracted the disease and are now naturally immune. But people born after 1957 who have been exposed to measles might need to get an MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) shot if they haven't been vaccinated twice before, Mrs. Schnitker said.
IT'S BEST to be vaccinated within 72 hours of being exposed, she said, but health officials recommend getting the shot even if it's later than that.
Complications of measles include severe ear infection, pneumonia, convulsions, encephalitis and even death in some cases.
Patients are still considered to be contagious up to four days after the rash goes away.
People can spread the measles without knowing it, she said, because they are contagious four days before the rash appears and four days after the rash disappears.
With the health department's massive vaccination efforts last year, Mrs. Schnitker said health officials hope to avoid another outbreak.
"IT'D BE LESS likely in the schools where we went in and boosted people," she said, but it could crop up in other schools. Even in schools where the department vaccinated everyone, she said, some people could catch the measles because the vaccine is only about 95 percent effective.
Last year, the health department vaccinated students in the Baldwin school district and at Baker University, and at Lawrence High School, Central Junior High School and Schwegler, Deerfield and Kennedy elementary schools. Watkins Memorial Health Center handled vaccinations for KU students.