School officials keeping close eye on measles outbreak
Steamboat Springs — A measles outbreak traced to California’s Disneyland amusement park has led to more than 100 cases in several states since December, including one confirmed measles patient in Colorado.
The outbreak has sparked a national debate about immunization rates, and school officials in Steamboat Springs are paying close attention to the spread of the virus.
“It’s definitely something we want to be aware of,” said Steamboat Springs School District superintendent Brad Meeks.
Meeks said he pulled the district’s immunization data out of his own curiosity last week.
Of the district’s roughly 2,500 students, there are 246 students who have claimed exemption from an immunization, with those students missing a total of 689 immunizations combined.
A total of 97 students in the district have not received the MMR — measles, mumps and rubella — vaccination.
Colorado is one of 20 states that allows parents to claim exemption from having their child immunized for personal reasons.
The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition released a report last week revealing that Colorado has the lowest rate of kindergartners vaccinated for measles, at about 82 percent.
According to district data, the 97 students without the shot would equate to an MMR immunization rate of about 96 percent across the district.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend all children have two doses of the MMR vaccine, with the first at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 to 6 years of age.
Adults without evidence of immunity to measles should have at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.
Vaccines are available at many pharmacies and physicians offices in Steamboat, as well as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association office.
The VNA is spreading the word about the importance of the MMR vaccine through a public service announcement and a posting on the VNA’s blog about what people need to know about the virus.
The public service announcement describes measles as a highly contagious viral disease, with symptoms including fever, cough, red and watery eyes and a rash that appeal 7 to 14 days after a person is infected.
Infection can lead to numerous complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis and death.
For more information about measles, see http://www.cdc.gov/measles/vaccination.
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