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State health department IDs first measles case in five years

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State health department IDs first measles case in five years

Feb 23, 2024 | 2:52 pm ET
By Whitney Downard
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State health department IDs first measles case in five years
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IDOH has identified a single case of the measles virus in Lake County, the first in the last five years. (Photo from the CDC)

The Indiana Department of Health reported its first case of measles in five years Friday, a rarity due to the widespread availability of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

Measles is a highly contagious virus characterized by white spots inside the mouth followed by a rash. The first symptoms usually include a fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes.

“Measles is easily spread and can be serious, especially for young children. About one in five unvaccinated people in the United States who get measles is hospitalized, and 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to measles will become sick,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Lindsay Weaver in a release. “This case is a good reminder that you are at risk if you haven’t been vaccinated.”

The state agency isn’t releasing more information about the patient, who lives in Lake County, to conform with privacy laws. However, the release notes that due to the highly contagious nature of the virus one case is enough to qualify as a measles outbreak.

After decades of decline, measles cases have resurged nationally in recent years as vaccination rates falter amid a rampant disinformation campaign about the efficacy of vaccines. The Indiana health department notes that 97% of those with both doses of the MMR vaccine are immune to measles.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 35 measles cases in 15 states — including Indiana and neighboring Ohio — but also in California, New York City and Florida, which is currently wrestling with an elementary school outbreak.

The CDC warns that one in 20 children could develop pneumonia, the most common cause of death, and one out of every 1,000 children will develop brain swelling, which can lead to brain damage. Additional neurological complications can lie dormant for years.

In response, the Indiana Department of Health is hosting three free vaccine clinics in the area for those one year of age or older at the following locations:

  • Gary Health Department, 1145 W. Fifth Ave., Gary from  3-7 p.m. CST on Feb. 28
  • East Chicago Health Department, 100 W. Chicago Ave., East Chicago from 3-7 p.m. CST on Feb. 28
  • and Jean Shepard Community Center, 3031 J. F. Mahoney Drive, Hammond from 307 p.m. CST on Feb. 28