Measles Contact at Massive Kentucky Religious Event Triggers CDC Alert – Ars Technica


Hughes Memorial Auditorium, where the outpouring event took place, on the Asbury University campus in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Enlarge / Hughes Memorial Auditorium, where the outpouring event took place, on the Asbury University campus in Wilmore, Kentucky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued a health alert for doctors and public health officials to look out for cases of measles after a person with a confirmed contagious case attended a massive religious event in Kentucky last month that may have An estimated 20,000 people have been exposed to one of the most contagious viruses in the world.

The event was an impromptu “outpouring” at Asbury University, which drew tens of thousands of believers to the small private Christian institution in Wilmore from February 8-23. Participants came from all over Kentucky, other US states and other countries.

A case of measles has been confirmed in an unvaccinated person who recently fled the country before attending the Asbury University outpouring. The person was at the event Feb. 17-18, the CDC reported. The university added that the person was present before they developed symptoms, suggesting the person was unaware they were infected. However, the CDC notes that people with measles are contagious four days before the telltale rash of measles appears, and state health officials said the person was contagious while they were present.

It’s unclear how many people may be at risk from the infection, but the CDC estimates 20,000 were present during the same period as the infected person. Therefore, the exposure could potentially spark an explosive outbreak among those who were unvaccinated or under-vaccinated at the event.

Kentucky has one of the lowest measles vaccination rates in the country, with only about 86.5 percent of preschoolers receiving two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in the 2021-2022 school year, according to CDC data. In Jessamine County, which includes Asbury University, the kindergarten immunization rate is 89.2 percent, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Health told Ars. Public health officials are targeting a 95 percent immunization rate to prevent the spread of the deadly infection.

Highly contagious

In a statement, the state health department spokesman said the agency is working closely with local health officials, Asbury University and the CDC to forestall a possible outbreak. Although no other measles cases have been linked to the event to date, the public health response is likely to continue for at least several weeks.

“People with known exposure to the person with measles will be contacted and people not vaccinated against measles will be advised to quarantine,” the spokesman said. ‚ÄúThere are currently no other confirmed cases of measles related to this exposure. It typically takes seven to 21 days for someone exposed to measles to develop the characteristic measles rash, so we expect this investigation to continue for a few more weeks.”

Measles is a highly contagious virus that causes infections that begin with fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis before causing a distinctive red rash that typically develops three to five days after the first symptoms. The infection can easily become serious, especially in younger children. A recent outbreak in Ohio hospitalized 36 out of 85 infected children (42 percent).

The virus spreads through direct contact and the air, where it can linger for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area. According to the CDC, up to 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus become infected.

Local, state and federal health officials are now asking unvaccinated participants to quarantine for 21 days and get vaccinated.

“If you may have been exposed on Asbury University campus and develop any symptoms, whether previously vaccinated or not, please isolate yourself from others and call your healthcare provider, emergency care or the emergency room to get tested.” , says Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Health (KDPH) said in a press release. “Please do not come into a healthcare facility without notice to avoid exposing others.”

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