The Charlottesville Health Department has confirmed three residents of the Thomas Jefferson Health District have contracted measles, an extremely contagious viral respiratory illness that affects respiratory cells and is spread through the air.
Dr. Lilian Peake states the initial case was confirmed May 19. An adult female resident of Charlottesville was hospitalized after reportedly contracting the virus while traveling in India.
She has since been released and is doing well.
While the woman did have little interaction with the community before the infection was detected, two people she did come into contact with now have the measles as well, the fourth and fifth confirmed cases in Virginia this year.
Neither individual was hospitalized for treatment and both are resting at home.
Peake says possible additional exposures in the community could have taken place May 20 at Charlottesville Waldorf School or particular areas of the Downtown Mall between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Those locations include the area outside The Paramount Theater between 4:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., Marco & Luca Dumpling Store between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. and and Chaps Ice Cream between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
People who were in those areas May 20 may have been exposed. Peake stresses that most citizens are immune to contracting the measles.
She says 99 percent of people who have had two doses of the vaccine are immune.
"It's important to remember that most people are immune. Most people have had the vaccination; it's a very safe and effective vaccine. So most people will be immune and not develop disease," explains Peake.
Conversely, 90 percent of people who are not immune will contract measles when exposed to the disease.
For those individuals who have not been vaccinated, Peake advises them to monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of measles.
Symptoms include four-day fevers, cough, runny nose and red eyes. The fever could reach 104 °F. The classic measles rash usually begins several days after the fever starts. It starts on the head before spreading to cover most of the body, often causing itching.
People who do develop and symptoms should immediately isolate themselves and contact a doctor. Do not go to the doctor's office to avoid spreading the virus.
In a statement, the Charlottesville Waldorf school states one of the confirmed cases was from a student at the school. It notified all parents of non-vaccinated children who were in attendance May 20 that these students are required to stay off school grounds through the last day of the school year, June 10.
The school has also canceled classes May 27 and will hold a vaccination clinic in the music and arts building from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.
The first measles vaccine is given to children between the age of 12 and 15 months and the second dose is given prior to attending kindergarten. Peake says vaccines are readily available for people who received one or no dose.
Requirements to enter public or private school are two doses of the measles vaccine.
However, people can be exempt for either religious or medical reasons and enter school without having the vaccine.
The Health Department is actively contacting the parents of every student at Charlottesville Waldorf School to determine who is and is not vaccinated.
Peake stresses that people should no panic. Instead, she suggests residents educate themselves about measles, learn the signs and symptoms, and just be cognizant.
The last case of measles in the Thomas Jefferson Health District was in 1990.