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Central Ohio health departments monitoring measles exposures as outbreak expands

According to the CDC, measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Health leaders across central Ohio are keeping a close watch on a measles outbreak that has spread beyond the Columbus area with cases now confirmed in Franklin and Ross counties.

In Fairfield and Licking counties, there are no cases but the health departments are tracking multiple potential exposures. 

Licking County Health Department commissioner Chad Brown said they are now checking vaccination rates at schools and daycares.

"We've seen really high vaccination rates within the schools,” Brown said. “We've been contacted with the daycares - will be in contact with them again this afternoon, and is trying to get them as much information as we can."

Ken Gordon, an Ohio Department of Health spokesperson, said the ODH laboratory is handling testing and has extended its hours to include weekends to better accommodate the timely test demands. ODH is also helping local health departments with case investigations, contact tracing and education about the MMR vaccine.

“We are monitoring these cases very closely,” said ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA. “This reinforces why it is so important to get vaccinated. The common denominator in these cases is that these are children who are not vaccinated against measles. 

"We live in a global environment, and these viruses simply have not been eradicated. When pockets of our community are not protected through vaccination, this can lead to cases or outbreaks that are preventable. We are all always at risk if unvaccinated.”

According to Columbus Public Health, people were exposed at three places in the last two weeks: Polaris Fashion Place, a church on Cleveland Avenue and a Meijer on Sawmill Road. If you were at any of these locations during these times, you are being asked to watch for symptoms.

RELATED: Columbus Public Health reveals 3 locations people may have had measles exposure, urge unvaccinated to watch for symptoms

According to the CDC, measles is one of the most contagious of all infectious diseases. It's transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets – it spreads when a person breathes, coughs or sneezes. 

The virus can remain in the air for up to two hours after an infected person has left the area.

Symptoms could take 21 days from exposure. Those symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Rash

People are most contagious with the rash, which can break out 3 to 5 days after symptoms begin.

To be tested, a person needs to have symptoms.

2 doses of the MMR vaccine are 97% effective at preventing measles. One dose is 93% effective.

"I think it's just a reminder of how important vaccinations are,” Brown said.

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