Lancaster county has been hit with its first measles case since 2001.
Health officials confirmed the case on June 26, bringing the number of measles cases in Pennsylvania this year up to nine.
“I’m fearful of an outbreak here as many in Lancaster County have not been immunized against measles, as well as other preventable diseases,” said Dr. Alan Peterson, chairman of the Lancaster County Immunization Coalition and a board member of the Partnership for Public Health.
Eight of the nine reported cases in the state, including the Lancaster patient, did not have a record of receiving the MMR vaccine.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health encourages everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves from life-threatening diseases like measles, polio, and whooping cough.
There have been no public exposures in Pennsylvania, as the patient was exposed to the disease while traveling out of state, but health professionals are worried about an outbreak occurring.
“Vaccinations are safe, they are effective and they are the best way to protect not only yourself and your family but also your community from a number of serious diseases,” said Nate Wardle, spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Department of Health.
Those who choose not to get vaccinated lower the preventive effects of widespread vaccination, increasing the chance of an epidemic occurring. “It also puts those at risk that can’t get the shots for medical reasons, like prenatals, those on immunocompromising drugs, those who have had transplants, those too young to be immunized, etc,” said Dr. Peterson.
According to the CDC, measles patients can infect others before they realize they have the disease.
The CDC says measles symptoms appear seven to 14 days after contact with the virus “and typically include high fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes,” with the measles rash appearing three to five days after the first symptoms.