Spiritual revival exposes 20,000 to measles

A spiritual revival at Asbury University in mid-February exposed up to 20,000 attendees to measles. The disease was carried by someone who was not vaccinated against the disease and had apparently been traveling abroad recently. The Jessamine County resident is under medical care and currently in quarantine.

Unvaccinated attendees, according to a statement issued by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, should quarantine for 21 days.

Measles is a disease that's easily preventable via a vaccine that was licensed in the 1960s with few or no known side effects. Prior to the use of the vaccine, measles would infect about 550,000 per year and kill about 500 in the U.S. The disease is particularly of concern for children and the elderly. One in every 1000 cases can develop acute encephalitis, which results in permanent brain damage. Measles can also cause a rare but fatal form of degenerative nerve disease that comes on 7 to 10 years after a measles infection.

Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000. Since then, annual outbreaks have ranged between 37 in 2004 to 1282 in 2019. Outbreaks have been steadily rising because of anti-vaccination campaigns that have left many more people unprotected.

“If you may have been exposed at Asbury University’s campus and develop any symptoms,
whether previously vaccinated or unvaccinated, please isolate yourself from others and call your
medical provider, urgent care, or emergency department to seek testing,” said Dr.
Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH). “Please do not arrive at a health care facility without advance notice so that others will not be exposed.”

This is the third reported case in Kentucky in as many months. Because of the ease of transmission of measles, it’s a concern for health officials seeking to prevent an outbreak. According to the CDC, Kentucky kindergartners have among the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

“In the United States, the first dose of measles vaccine is routinely administered in combination
with mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) to children at age 12 months through 15 months. A
second MMR dose is routinely administered at age 4 through 6 years. Two doses of MMR
vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus,” the statement from KDPH says.

Billy Mosley, Lead Reporter for The Kentucky Daily

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