Tag: quarantines

How Contagious Is Measles?

Did you hear about the folks in New York who got quarantined isolated on the Emirates plane from Dubai?

Turns out that about 10 passengers had the flu or other cold viruses.
Although the worry was likely about MERS, it turns out that about 19 passengers had the flu or other cold viruses.

News like that and folks getting exposed to other infectious diseases, probably has them wondering just how contagious these diseases are. Do you have to be sitting next to someone to get them? In the same row? On the same floor?

Understanding Your Risk of Catching a Disease

Fortunately, most diseases are not terribly contagious.

We worry about some things, like SARS and Ebola, because they are so deadly, not because they are so contagious or infectious.

Wait, contagious or infectious? Aren’t they the same thing?

To confuse matters, some infectious diseases aren’t contagious, like Lyme disease. And some vaccine-preventable diseases are neither infectious nor communicable. Think tetanus. You may have never thought of it that way, but you aren’t going to catch tetanus from another person. Of course, that’s not a good reason to skip getting a tetanus shot!

To understand your risk of getting sick, you want to understand a few terms, including:

  • infectious disease – a disease that can be transferred to a new host
  • communicable – an infectious disease that can be transferred from one host to another
  • non-communicable – a non-infectious disease which can not be transferred from one host to another
  • contagiousness – an infectious disease that is easily transferred from one person to another
  • infectivity – the ability of an infectious agent to cause an infection, measured as the proportion of persons exposed to an infectious agent who become infected. Although this doesn’t sound much different from contagiousness, it is. The Francisella tularensis bacteria is highly infectious, for example, to the point that folks exposed to a culture plate are given antibiotics or put on a fever watch. Few of us get tularemia though, because transmission is through tick bites, hunting or skinning infected rabbits, muskrats, prairie dogs and other rodents, or inhaling dust or aerosols contaminated with F. tularensis bacteria. So if you get exposed, you will probably get sick, but there is a low probability for getting exposed.
  • incubation period – the time it takes to start having symptoms after you are exposed to an infectious disease. A longer incubation period increases the chances that someone will get exposed to a disease and travel home before getting sick. A shorter incubation period, like for influenza, means that a lot of people can get sick in a short amount of time.
  • contagious period- the time during which you can spread the illness to other people and may start before you have any symptoms
  • quarantine – used to separate people who have been exposed to a contagious disease and may become sick, but aren’t sick yet
  • isolation – used to separate people who are already sick with a contagious disease
  • transmission – how the disease spreads, including direct (direct contact or droplet spread) vs indirect transmission (airborne, vehicleborne, or vectorborne)
  • R0 (r nought) – the basic reproductive number or the number of new infections originating from a single infectious person among a total susceptible population
  • Rn – the net reproductive number, which takes into account the number of susceptibles in a community
  • infectious period – how long you are contagious

Got all that?

How Contagious Is Measles?

If not, understanding how easily you can get measles should help you understand all of these terms.

Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.
Measles is highly contagious, which is likely why all of the Brady kids got sick.

Measles is highly contagious, with a very high R0 number of 12 to 18.

That’s because:

  • the measles virus can live for up to two hours on surfaces and in the airspace where an infected person coughed or sneezed
  • infected people are contagious for up to four days before they have a rash and even know that they have measles, so expose lots of people even if they get put in isolation once they get diagnosed
  • infected people continue to be contagious for up to four days after the rash appears, so can continue to expose people if they aren’t put in isolation

So you don’t need to have someone with measles coughing in your face to get sick. If they coughed or sneezed at the grocery store, on the bus, or at your doctor’s office and then you entered the same area within two hours, then you could be exposed to the measles virus and could get sick.

Why don’t we see at least 12 to 18 people in each measles outbreak anymore?

That’s easy. The definition for R0 is for a total susceptible population. Most folks are vaccinated and protected, so even if they are around someone with measles, they typically won’t get sick.

Still, up to 90% of folks who aren’t immune and are exposed to measles will catch it. That includes infants too young to be vaccinated, kids too young to be fully vaccinated, and anyone who has a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated.

The measles has a very high R0 is easier to see when you compare it to those of some other diseases

 

Infection R0
Diphtheria 6-7
Ebola 1.5-2.5
Flu 1.4-4
MERS 2-8
Mumps 4.7
Pertussis 5-17
Polio 2-20
RSV 3
SARS 2-5
Smallpox 5-7
Varicella 8-10

Why such a big range for some diseases?

These are estimates and you are more or less contagious at different stages of each illness.

Fortunately, in most cases you can just get vaccinated and protected and don’t have to worry too much about them.

More on the Contagious Periods of Diseases

How Do They Figure out Who Starts an Outbreak?

As we continue to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in the post-vaccination era, it is important that these outbreaks be quickly contained.

But it is important to understand that these outbreaks don’t simply stop on there own. A lot of work goes into containing them.

Working to Contain an Outbreak

And that work containing outbreaks is expensive. Much more expensive than simply getting vaccinated.

For example, the total personnel time and total direct cost to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene responding to and controlling the 2013 outbreak in NYC were calculated to be at least $394,448 and 10,054 personnel hours.

Why it is so expensive is easy to see once you understand all of the work that goes into containing an outbreak. Work that is done by your local health department as soon as a case of measles, or other vaccine-preventable disease, is suspected.

Work that, for a measles outbreak for example, includes:

  • initiating a case and contact investigation
  • quickly confirming that the patient actually has measles, including testing
  • assessing the potential for further spread – identifying contacts who aren’t immune to measles and are at risk for getting measles
  • isolating people with measles and quarantining contacts who aren’t immune to measles for at least 21 days after the start of the measles rash in the last case of measles in the area, including everyone who is intentionally unvaccinated
  • offering postexposure vaccination, a dose of the MMR vaccine within 72 hours of exposure to contacts who are not fully immune so that they can get some protection maybe don’t have to be quarantined
  • having targeted immunization clinics in the affected population, such as a school or church, to get as many people vaccinated as possible, even after 72 hours, so they have can be protected in the future

That’s an awful lot of work.

Work that continues until the outbreak officially ends.

Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Another big part of the work that goes on to contain an outbreak is identifying the source of the outbreak.

Was it someone who had recently been traveling overseas, a visitor from out of the country, or someone that was already part of an another outbreak?

Why is that so important?

If you don’t find the source of the outbreak, then you can’t be sure that you have found all of the people that have been exposed, and the outbreak might go on for an extended period of time.

And no, it is never shedding, a vaccine strain, or a recently vaccinated child that causes these measles outbreaks.

Anatomy of a Measles Outbreak

A closer look at the measles outbreak in San Diego, California in 2008 can help folks understand even better what happens during one of these outbreaks.

A 7-year-old who is unvaccinated because his parents have a personal belief vaccine exemption travels to Switzerland with his family.

A week after returning home from the trip, he gets sick, but returns to school after a few days. He then develops a rash and sees his family physician, followed by his pediatrician, and then makes a trip to the emergency room because he continues to have a high fever and rash (classic measles symptoms).

He is eventually diagnosed with measles, but not before eleven other children are infected with measles. This includes two of his siblings, five children in his school, and four children who were exposed at his pediatrician’s office.

It is not as simple as that though.

During this measles outbreak:

  • Three of the children who became infected were younger than 12 months of age, and were therefore too young to have been vaccinated
  • Eight of the nine children who were at least 12 months old were intentionally unvaccinated because they also had personal belief vaccine exemptions
  • About 70 children were placed under voluntary quarantine for 21 days after their last exposure because they were exposed to one of the measles cases and either didn’t want to be vaccinated or were too young
  • One of the infants with measles traveled to Hawaii, raising fears that the measles outbreak could spread there too

All together, 839 people were exposed to the measles virus.

This family didn't have a choice about their son getting sick - he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.
This family didn’t have a choice about their son getting sick – he was too young to be vaccinated when he was exposed to an unvaccinated child with measles.

At least one of them was a 10-month-old infant who got infected at his well child checkup, was too young to have gotten the MMR vaccine yet, and ended up spending three days in the hospital – time his parents spent “fearing we might lose our baby boy.”

The parents of this 10-month-old weren’t looking for a vaccine exemption and didn’t want their child to catch measles, a life-threatening, vaccine-preventable disease. Instead, they were counting on herd immunity to protect him until their child could be protected with an MMR vaccine. They were one of “those who come into contact with them” that got caught up in a decision of some other parents to not vaccinate their child.

The kids who are at risk and get a vaccine-preventable disease because they are too young to get vaccinated, have an immune system problem that prevents them from getting immunized or their vaccine from working, and the kids who simply didn’t get protected from a vaccine are the hidden costs of these measles outbreaks that we don’t hear about often enough.

What to Know About Finding the Source of an Outbreak

Without all of the hard work that goes into containing outbreaks, the outbreaks of measles, pertussis, mumps, hepatitis A, and other vaccine preventable diseases would be even bigger.

More on Finding the Source of an Outbreak

 

Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

What to most folks worry about when they go on a cruise?

That’s right. Norovirus…

While it isn’t as common as most folks think, norovirus is still often thought of as the cruise ship disease.

Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

Not surprisingly, many of the same conditions that put you at risk for getting norovirus, including that it is very contagious and you are in close quarters with a lot of other people on a ship, puts you at risk for getting other diseases.

Even measles?

Especially measles.

In 2014, 136 people got measles after an unvaccinated person developed measles on a cruise ship, including 28 people on the cruise.

More recently, an unvaccinated teenager exposed others to measles on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship while visiting Alaska. It seems like the same person also exposed folks to measles on a few planes and trains too.

How did they get measles? In Thailand.

This is almost certainly the same person who arrived at Vancouver International Airport from Tokyo on an Air Canada flight (July 30), leaving for Portland on Air Canada Jazz that same day.

While in Portland, they exposed people to measles at multiple locations:

  • Leno Medoyeff Bridal, 710 NW 23rd Ave., Portland, 3:30—5:30 p.m. (July 31)
  • Tom’s Pancake House, 12925 SW Canyon Rd., Beaverton, 7—9:30 a.m. (Aug. 1)
  • Max Red Line, Beaverton Transit Center to Pioneer Square, 12:30—1 p.m. (Aug. 2)
  • Max Red Line, Pioneer Place to Beaverton Transit Center, 5:30—6 p.m. (Aug. 2)
  • Verde Cocina, 5515 SW Canyon Ct., Portland, 2—4:30 p.m. (Aug. 5)

They weren’t done yet though.

You really shouldn't have to worry about measles when you board a plane, train, or cruise ship with your kids.
You really shouldn’t have to worry about measles when you board a plane, train, or cruise ship with your kids.

They then traveled back to Vancouver International Airport on an Alaska Airlines flight (August 6) and boarded a Norwegian Jewel cruise ship to Alaska.

Fortunately, the teen was placed in medical isolation shortly after boarding the ship and may have left the typically 7 day cruise early, as they were transferred to PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center on August 8.

How can you protect yourself?

Get vaccinated. You never know when someone who is unvaccinated is going to expose your family to measles or put them at risk for other vaccine-preventable disease.

More on Measles on a Plane, Train, and a Cruise Ship

Costs of a Measles Outbreak

The endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped us from having outbreaks of measles each year.

Since reaching a record low of just 37 cases of measles in 2004, other milestones in the measles timeline we should all know about include that there were:

  • 220 measles cases in 2011, a 15-year record and the highest number of cases since 1996 at least until 2014, when we had at least 667 cases
  • 58 cases in the 2013 New York City measles outbreak and for a short time, the largest outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States
  • 382 cases in the 2014 measles outbreak in Ohio and now the largest outbreak since the endemic spread of measles was eliminated in the United States
  • 170 measles cases in the first few months of 2015, including a large outbreak in California that was linked to Disneyland.
  • 188 cases and a measles death in 2015

That’s still far below where we used to be though, especially when you consider that before the first measles vaccine was licensed, there was an average of about 549,000 measles cases and 495 measles deaths in the United States each year.

Containing a Measles Outbreak

Several factors help to limit the measles outbreaks that we continue to see in the United States. Most important is that fact that despite the talk of personal belief vaccine exemptions and vaccine-hesitant parents not getting their kids vaccinated, we still have high population immunity.

In the United States, 90.8% of children get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine by the time they are 35 months old and 91.1% of teens have two doses. While not perfect, that is still far higher than the 81% immunization rates the UK saw from 2002 to 2004, when Andrew Wakefield started the scare about the MMR vaccine. Instead of overall low immunization rates, in the U.S., we have “clusters of intentionally under-vaccinated children.”

It also helps that the measles vaccine is highly effective. One dose of a measles vaccine provides about 95% protection against measles infection. A second, “booster” dose helps to improve the effectiveness of the measles vaccine to over 99%.

To further help limit the spread of measles, there are a lot of immediate control measures that go into effect once a case of measles has been suspected, from initiating contact investigations and identifying the source of the measles infection to offering postexposure prophylaxis or quarantining close contacts.

That’s an awful lot of work.

A 2013 measles outbreak in Texas required 1,122 staff hours and 222 volunteer hours from the local health department to contain.

Costs of a Measles Outbreak

In addition to requiring a lot of work, containing a measles outbreak is expensive.

A study reviewing the impact of 16 outbreaks in the United States in 2011 concluded that “investigating and responding to measles outbreaks imposes a significant economic burden on local and state health institutions. Such impact is compounded by the duration of the outbreak and the number of potentially susceptible contacts.”

We still don’t know what it cost to contain many big outbreaks, like the one in Ohio, but we do know that it cost:

  • over $2.3 million to contain the 2017 outbreak in Minnesota – 75 people got measles, 71 were unvaccinated, and more than 500 people were quarantined over a 5 month period
  • up to an estimated $3.91 million (but likely much more) to contain the 2015 outbreaks in California
  • $394,448 and 10,054 personnel hours in total personnel time and total direct cost to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene responding to and controlling the 2013 outbreak in NYC
  • two unrelated cases in Colorado in 2016 cost $49,769 and $18,423, respectively to investigate
  • $50,758.93 to contain an outbreak at a megachurch in Texas
  • $150,000 to contain (13 cases) an outbreak in Cook County, Illinois
  • $223,223 to contain (5 cases, almost all unvaccinated) to contain another outbreak in Clallam County, Washington, an outbreak that was linked to the death of an immunocompromised woman.
  • more than $190,000 of personnel costs in Alameda County, with 6 cases and >700 contacts, it is estimated that over 56 staff spent at least 3,770 hours working to contain the outbreak
  • $5,655 to respond to all of the people who were exposed when a 13-year-old with measles was seen in an ambulatory pediatric clinic in 2013
  • $130,000 to contain a 2011 measles outbreak in Utah
  • $24,569 to contain a 2010 measles outbreak in Kentucky
  • $800,000 to contain (14 cases, all unvaccinated) a 2008 measles outbreak at two hospitals in Tuscon, Arizona
  • $176,980 to contain a 2008 measles outbreak in California
  • $167,685 to contain a 2005 measles outbreak in Indiana – unvaccinated 17-year-old catches measles on church mission trip to Romania, leading to 34 people getting sick, including an under-vaccinated hospital worker who ends up on a ventilator for 6 days
  • $181,679 (state and local health department costs) to contain a 2004 measles outbreak in Iowa triggered by a unvaccinated college student’s trip to India
Ending with 667 cases, 2014 became the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994.
Ending with 667 cases, 2014 became the worst year for measles in the United States since 1994. How much did these outbreaks cost to contain?

It is important to keep in mind that these costs are often only for the direct public health costs to the county health department, including staff hours and the value of volunteer hours, etc. Additional costs that come with a measles outbreak can also include direct medical charges to care for sick ($14,000 to $16,000) and exposed people, direct and indirect costs for quarantined families (up to $775 per child), and outbreak–response costs to schools and hospitals, etc.

We should also consider what happens when our state and local health departments have to divert so much time and resources to deal with these types of vaccine-preventable diseases instead of other public health matters in the community. Do other public health matters take a back seat as they spend a few months responding to a measles outbreak?

There were 220 cases of measles in the United States in 2011. To contain just 107 of those cases in 16 outbreaks, “the corresponding total estimated costs for the public response accrued to local and state public health departments ranged from $2.7 million to $5.3 million US dollars.”

In contrast, it will costs about $77 to $102 to get a dose of the MMR vaccine if you don’t have insurance. So not only do vaccines work, they are also cost effective.

What to Know About the Costs of a Measles Outbreak

Containing a measles outbreak is expensive – far more expensive than simply getting vaccinated and protected.

More on the Costs of a Measles Outbreak

How to Avoid a Quarantine During an Outbreak at Your School

Believe it or not, hundreds of kids get caught up in quarantines for vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States each year.

Quarantines were routine in the pre-vaccine era.
Quarantines were routine during pre-vaccine era epidemics.

Wait, what?

Caught up in quarantines for vaccine-preventable diseases?

Then why do we have vaccines?

How to Avoid a Quarantine During an Outbreak at Your School

Is it fair that unvaccinated students need to stay home when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease?
Is it fair that unvaccinated students need to stay home when there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease?

As you have probably already guessed, these aren’t usually vaccinated kids that are getting sick or quarantined in these outbreaks of measles, meningococcemia, and chicken pox, etc.

That’s right, they are unvaccinated.

Typically intentionally unvaccinated, although they are sometimes too young to be vaccinated or may have a medical exemption.

And that brings up to a few very easy ways to avoid getting quarantined during an outbreak:

  1. make sure you are always up-to-date on all of your vaccines
  2. if you think that you have natural immunity (already had the disease) or were vaccinated, but don’t have your immunization records, then getting a titer test might keep you out of quarantine if you can prove that you are immune
  3. get vaccinated, if possible, at the first sign of the outbreak, which might help you avoid quarantine in the case of measles and chicken pox

“Persons who continue to be exempted from or who refuse measles vaccination should be excluded from the school, child care, or other institutions until 21 days after rash onset in the last case of measles.”

Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

That’s right, especially in the case of measles, you can often avoid being quarantined if you simply get vaccinated.

Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are quarantined for at least 21 days.
Unvaccinated children exposed to measles are typically quarantined for at least 21 days.

Why are quarantines important?

Can’t you just isolate yourself if you get sick?

The problem with that strategy is that you are often contagious before you develop symptoms. That’s especially true of measles, when you likely won’t even realize that you have measles until you get the measles rash, after having a high fever for three to five days. That’s why people with measles are often seen at clinics and emergency rooms multiple times, exposing many people, before they are finally diagnosed. It is the classic signs of a rash with continued fever that helps to make the diagnosis.

Without quarantines of unvaccinated people, especially those who are known exposures to other cases, today’s outbreaks would be even bigger and harder to control.

If you don’t want to take the risk of being quarantined and missing weeks or months of school or work, then don’t take the risk of being unvaccinated. Tragically, that’s not the only risk you take when you skip or delay your vaccines. In addition to getting sick, you also risk getting others sick, including those who didn’t have a choice about getting vaccinated yet.

What to Know About Avoiding Quarantines During an Outbreak

The easiest way to avoid getting caught up in a quarantine for a vaccine-preventable disease is to simply make sure your kids are up-to-date on all of their vaccines.

More on Avoiding Quarantines During an Outbreak

 

The Latest Measles Outbreak in Kansas

Several things are troubling about the measles outbreak in Kansas.

For one thing, it involved a lot of infants who were too young to be vaccinated. Their parents didn’t get to make a choice about getting vaccinated or getting measles. They got measles.

There are at least 18 cases of measles in current Kansas outbreak.
An ongoing measles outbreak in Kansas is up to 18 cases.

Also, as the case count climbed to 22 before ending, we are only now learning how the outbreak got started.

Greg Lakin, the chief medical officer for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the current outbreak started when an infant who was too young to be vaccinated picked up the virus in Asia. That infant then returned to a Johnson County day care.

What You Need to Know About the JoCo Outbreak

But what does too young to be vaccinated mean?

Remember that if you are traveling out of the country, infants should get their first MMR early, as early as six months of age.

Update on the Measles Outbreak in Kansas

Since the outbreak in a daycare in Johnson County was discovered on March 8, a total of 22 measles cases have been identified, including:

  • 14 Johnson County residents
  • three Linn County residents
  • one Miami County resident not associated with the daycare

The latest cases could have exposed other people to measles at:

  • Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in the Lobby and Sanctuary; 13300 Kenneth Rd., Leawood, KS; April 8 from 10:30 a.m.to 1:30 p.m.
  • Blue Mound Federated Church; General Delivery, Blue Mound, KS; April 1 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • Olathe Health Family Medicine; 302 N.1st St, Mound City, KS; March 26 and 28 from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Olathe Health Family Medicine; 1017 E. Market St, La Cygne, KS; March 27 from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM, March 29 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, March 30 from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and April 2 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • Casey’s General Store; 207 S. 9th St, Mound City, KS; March 26 from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM, March 28 from 12:00 PM to 2:30 PM, March 30 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and April 2 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m
  • Casey’s General Store; 406 E. Market St, LaCygne, KS;March 27 from 12:00
    PM to 2:30 PM
  • Linn County Judicial Building; 318 Chestnut St., Mound City, KS; March 30 from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Applebee’s; 16110 W. 135thSt., Olathe, KS; March 30 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
  • Main Street Liquor; 411 E. Main St., Osawatomie, KS; March 30 from 9:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  • Dollar General; 110 S. 9thSt., Mound City, KS;March 29 from 5:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Auburn Pharmacy; 625 E Main. St, Mound City, KS; on March 13th from 4:15 PM to 6:45 PM
  • Aldi’s; 15290 W. 119th St Olathe, KS 66062; on March 2nd from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
  • Payless Discount Foods; 2101 E. Santa Fe St, Olathe, KS; on March 6th from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM
  • El Potro Mexican Café; 602 N Pearl St, Paola, KS on March 7th from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM
  • Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas Emergency Department; 5808 W 110th St, Overland Park, KS on March 8th and March 10th in the morning
  • AMC Dine – In Studio 28; 12075 S. Strang Line Rd, Olathe, KS; March 9th from 3:30 PM to 7:30 PM
  • Budget Coin Laundry; 798 E Main St, Gardner, KS; on March 9th from 8:00 PM – 11:00 PM
  • Olathe YMCA swimming pool and locker room; 21400 W. 153rd St, Olathe, KS; on March 10th from 9:30 AM to 1:00 PM
  • Bath and Body Works at Legends Outlets; 1803 Village W Pkwy, Kansas City, KS; on March 10th from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
  • Crazy 8 at Legends Outlets; 1843 Village W Pkwy, Kansas City, KS ; on March 10th after 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
  • Orange Leaf; 11524 W 135th St Overland Park, KS; on March 10th from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
  • Chick-fil-A; 12087 S Blackbob Rd, Olathe, KS on March 24th 8:15 PM till Close
  • Olathe YMCA – ENTIRE FACILITY INCLUDING CHILDCARE AREA; 21400 W. 153rd St, Olathe, KS on March 22nd and 23rd from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM
  • Walgreens; 7500 Wornall Rd, Kansas City, MO on March 22nd, 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
  • Chuck E. Cheese’s; 15225 W 134th Pl, Olathe, KS on March 21st, 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

If you were exposed and aren’t immune to measles (two doses of the MMR vaccine provide good protection), then you should watch for signs and symptoms to develop 10 to 21 days after your last exposure (in quarantine).

With the new exposures, that means that we could expect to see new cases associated with this outbreak any time between now and April 29th (the last exposure and the longest incubation period).

A History of Measles Outbreaks in Kansas

Some folks probably recall that this isn’t the first big measles outbreak in Kansas.

One of the largest measles outbreaks of 2014 was in the Kansas City metropolitan area. That year, at least 28 people developed measles, including a newborn who was only two weeks old.

In addition to the outbreak in Kansas City, there was another large outbreak that year in Sedgwick County – Wichita, Kansas.

And like most measles outbreaks, other states were affected too. Someone from Texas developed measles after getting exposed to measles at a softball tournament in Wichita.

More recently, outbreaks in Kansas have included:

  • a suspected case at William Allen White Elementary School in Lyon County, Kansas which has led to the quarantine of unvaccinated students for 3 weeks (2017)
  • a case in Butler County, Kansas. (2017)
  • a case in Sedgwick County, Kansas, a child too young to be vaccinated who may have been exposed at a church. Three other exposed infants who were too young to be vaccinated and who were considered at risk to get measles in this outbreak received immunoglobulin treatment. (2017)
  • a second case in the Wichita, Kansas area, this time in Sedgwick County, with exposures at a church, dental office, elementary school, and multiple stores over at least 3 days. (2017)

Why are there still so many measles outbreaks in Kansas?

Like in other places with outbreaks, it is likely explained by relatively high levels of non-medical exemptions and clusters of unvaccinated children and adults.

Hopefully this outbreak will be a good reminder that vaccines are necessary and everyone will get their kids caught up and protected.

What to Know About the Measles Outbreak in Kansas

Kansas is in the middle of another large measles outbreak and as usual, it is mostly among those who are unvaccinated, including many too young to be vaccinated.

More on the Measles Outbreak in Kansas

Updated on April 21, 2018

The Hospital Rock Engravings of Farmington, Connecticut

Vaccines are a lot safer than they used to be in the old days.

No, I’m not talking about the “crude brew” that was the original DTP vaccine.

This older vaccine used more antigens than the DTaP vaccine that replaced it, so could cause more side effects. Even before that though, there was less oversight of vaccine manufacturers in the early 20th century. This could lead to vaccines that were contaminated or which simply didn’t work.

That certainly was a problem with the early smallpox vaccine, which is typically considered to be the most dangerous vaccine ever routinely used.

Variolation and Smallpox

But even before the smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, we had variolation.

While the smallpox vaccine involved the cowpox virus, variolation actually infected someone with smallpox. The idea was to give the person a milder form by exposing them to a weaker, or attenuated, form of the virus.

They got this weakened virus from the smallpox scabs of someone who had already recovered and:

  • blowing dried smallpox scabs into their nose
  • applying pus from smallpox scabs to a small puncture wound on their skin

Variolation worked, giving the person immunity to smallpox – if they survived.

Unfortunately, about 1 to 3% of people who underwent variolation died.

And people who had recently undergone variolation could be contagious, leading to smallpox epidemics.

So why did folks undergo variolation if they had a chance of dying from the procedure?

It’s simple.

A natural smallpox infection was so much more deadly. Up to 30% of people who got smallpox died, and many people eventually got caught up in the regular smallpox epidemics that plagued people in the pre-vaccine era.

The Hospital Rock Engravings of Farmington, Connecticut

We don’t have to worry about smallpox anymore.

Well, not about natural smallpox infections, since smallpox was eradicated back in 1980.

And there are many other diseases that we get vaccinated against, with it being extremely easy to get that protection, especially compared to what folks did in the old days.

Do you know how far folks went to make variolation safer?

“Every year, thousands undergo this operation, and the French Ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the small-pox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it, and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son. I am patriot enough to take the pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England…”
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu On Small Pox in Turkey (1717)

They actually went to smallpox hospitals to get vaccinated, remaining in quarantine for up to three weeks so that they wouldn’t get others sick.

In Farmington, Connecticut, two doctors established the Todd-Wadsworth Smallpox Hospital and had a lot of success with variolation.

Patients were no longer starved before inoculation, and many had begun to doubt the efficacy and safety of vomiting, sweats, purges, mercurials (toxic mercury salts such as calomel), and bleeding which had previously weakened both inoculees and those who “took the pox in the natural way.”

Charles Leach, MD on Hospital Rock

There, up to 20 patients at a time stayed in quarantine to get variolated, as a smallpox epidemic hit nearby Boston.

Patients engraved their name on Hospital Rock in the late 1700s near Farmington.
Patients engraved their name on Hospital Rock in the late 1700s near Farmington. Photo by Keith Wilkens

Between 1792 and 1794, many who got variolated wrote their names on what is now known as Hospital Rock.

“Many have supposed that the names on this rock were those who had did of the small-pox, but this is a great mistake. Every name on the rock is that of a person who was living when the name was placed there. Norris Stanley lived to own ships which were captured in the war of 1812 by Algerian pirates and still later to receive from the United States an indeminity therefor amounting to a large sum.”

James Shepard on The Small Pox Hospital Rock

The nearby town of Durham seemed to go a different way.

Instead of an inoculation hospital, they had a pest house to quarantine folks with natural smallpox infections.

Adding to the history of smallpox in Connecticut – a smallpox burying ground in Guilford.

Why wasn’t variolation popular everywhere? Folks didn’t have to wait for the first vaccine for the anti-vaccine movement to get started.

What to Know About Smallpox and the Hospital Rock Engravings

Hundreds of people got safely inoculated against smallpox and left their names on Hospital Rock near Farmington, Connecticut just before Edward Jenner discovered the first smallpox vaccine.

More on the Hospital Rock Engravings