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Hospital, Health Departments Keep An Eye Out For Measles Symptoms In The Ozarks

Chloe O'Neill

Measles was considered eradicated from the United States in 2000, but the potentially fatal disease made a comeback—something health experts attribute to a decline in vaccinations.

There haven’t been any confirmed cases in southwest Missouri, but area health officials are on guard. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 1,000 cases of Measles reported in the United States so far this year. The cases span 28 states, including one case in Missouri.

Hospitals are taking extra precautions.

Cindy Edwards is an infection prevention nurse at CoxHealth in Springfield. She says the health care system has designed a protocol with the infection prevention specialist. The goal is to remind primary care providers what Measles looks like in a patient, and also what to do if they have a patient with those symptoms.

“We did that to eliminate any kind of exposures that come into our facilities. So, we have actions in place to eliminate exposures for our customers that come into our facility and our staff,” Edwards said.

The CDC says Measles causes fever, rash, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Complications can include ear infection, diarrhea, pneumonia, brain damage, and death.

We also spoke with several county health departments.  

Springfield-Greene County Health Department spokeswoman Kathryn Wall says communication is key.

“We make sure our healthcare partners understand what the circumstances are. They know what the case counts are, and we keep them informed as to if we have a suspect case, we make sure that the partners that need to know are involved in that issue as well,” Wall said. 

The Greene, Stone, and Taney County health departments all said they’re continuing to do what they’ve always done: push the message that the MMR vaccine, designed to prevent Measles, Mumps and Rubella, is safe.

In Taney County, health department official Lisa Marshall says they work with local school districts to make sure kids are vaccinated.

“Our role with public health is largely prevention, so making sure we can help slow down or stop the spread of the disease. So, we would largely be involved in informing the public on what they can do to keep themselves healthy and safe,” Marshall said.

And Pam Burnett works at the Stone County Health Department.

“Make sure that your child starts their vaccination from 12 months to 15 months. That’s the first one, and then the second dose is 4 years to 6 years, right when they start kindergarten,” Burnett said.

She also encourages adults to remain up-to-date on their boosters.

A request for comment from Mercy was not returned.