Measles concerns: local doctors work to prevent an outbreak

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Health officers are renewing warnings about the spread of measles.

One-hundred-and-eight people have been infected in these states: California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Washington.

The majority of the measles cases are in Minnesota, where 78 people have contracted the illness since January. That's more cases than the last 20 years, combined.

It's too close to home for doctors in Northeast Wisconsin. They are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of measles, a viral infection of the respiratory system. Doctors put up signs warning of measles and symptoms of measles.

"We put it up in May, as soon as we heard there was increasing cases over in Minnesota," says Dr. Paul Pritchard, Prevea Health, Chief Quality Officer. "We were just trying to raise awareness. Not trying to create a panic or anything like that."

Northeast Wisconsin has had no confirmed cases of measles. However, the outbreak in other states has grabbed the attention of the local health care community.

"It's very contagious. It's one of the more contagious viruses around," Pritchard says. "So you've got to be cautious with that one."

Dr. Donald Beno, a pediatrician at Aurora BayCare, advocates for kids to get vaccinated. He's very concerned about measles.

"Measles as a virus can last in the air, where someone was for two hours after they've left," Dr. Beno says. "And a person who is not immunized, who walks past an infected person, nine out of ten times will get measles."

Beno is one of a few people for whom the immunization does not work.

"There will always be a small number of people that just do not convert, but unfortunately I'm one of those people, and I've gotten the vaccine six times in my life," Dr. Beno tells Action 2 News. "So I depend upon others to protect me."

The Minnesota Department of Health shows the vast majority of measles cases came from un-vaccinated kids in the Somalian community.

Aurora BayCare says one of its doctors is working with the growing Somalian community in Northeast Wisconsin to understand measles and vaccines. The doctor encourages more immunizations to prevent the spread of the virus.

"People travel, and so things are never just in one spot," Beno says. "We're a very short distance from Minnesota."

Dr. Pritchard concurs. "So you could still see, because of the infectious nature of it, you could see these pop up."

Symptoms of measles include:

High fever
Runny nose
Red, watery eyes
Rash on the face, neck, body, arms, legs, and feet


CDC's guide to measles

Minnesota Health Department measles statistics

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