An unvaccinated Cobb County middle school student contracted measles and exposed other people who were not affected by the highly contagious virus to the Georgia Public Health Department.
School District officials confirmed that the student was attending Mabry Middle School until November 1st. A total of 17 unvaccinated persons – mainly students and at least one adult – are kept away from the school and are at home, as two acquaintances report with the situation. According to the state health department, home residents are only allowed to return after a 21-day quarantine period.
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Quarantine covers the time when symptoms of the disease occur and an infected person is contagious. That would be until the 22nd of November. Because the schools were closed for Thanksgiving the following week, those affected by the virus would return no earlier than December 2nd.
"Unaffected teachers and students continue to focus on teaching and learning, while affected students and families are supported by public health," says an e-mail statement from the school district.
The Mabry student marks the eighth measles case this year, the most that the state has seen in the last decade. All eight persons were not vaccinated.
The Department of Health asks anyone with measles symptoms to first see a doctor before going to a doctor's office or hospital.
The measles virus usually starts with fever and is accompanied by coughing, runny nose and red eyes, according to state authorities. Two to three days after the onset of the first symptoms, there is a rash of red spots, usually along the face of the hairline. It can spread to the rest of the body within 24 hours.
Coughing or sneezing can spread the germ in the air. It can stay up to two hours in the air.
In a letter to parents, Janet Pak Memark from the Cobb-Douglas Health Department said it was very unlikely that students would get measles if they were vaccinated with measles mumps and rubella. The vaccine is typically administered first at the age of 12 to 15 months and again at the age of 4 to 6 years.
David Chastain, chairman of the Cobb County School Board, said he saw some people spreading news about the diagnosis on social media, but no worried parents or teachers had spoken to him.
"I understand people's concerns, but I think people are aware that they can take their own precautions," he said, adding that he knows nothing else about the diagnosis.
He also encouraged Cobb residents to comply with all health ministry policies issued as part of the diagnosis.
"I think people need to handle it reasonably," he added.
Parents picking up their children at the school on Jims Road in East Cobb did not seem to be particularly worried. Several parents pointed out that their children are vaccinated and protected against measles.
But Michael Bryan, a parent of Mabry, said he was "a bit shaken" when he learned of the student's diagnosis. "That was a little annoying," he said.
Bryan said children should be vaccinated before enrolling in public schools. "Unless they have a condition that makes vaccines particularly dangerous for them, then absolutely," he said. "It still makes sense to vaccinate."
An estimated 93.6% of infants in Georgia received the recommended measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which is slightly below the national average of 94.7% of the weekly reports from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Morbidity and Mortality , Also in Georgia, 2.5 percent of kindergarten teachers had a release of at least one vaccine, which is the same percentage for the US.
By law, vaccinations are required for school attendance, unless a parent or guardian provides a religious or temporary medical care exemption form. For religious exceptions, the child must have a notarized affidavit stating that vaccination violates the family's religious beliefs.
For certain vaccines, a temporary medical exemption – by a physician, a registered nurse or a medical assistant – may be granted for up to one year.
In the event of a vaccine-preventable outbreak, students with exemptions may not attend school until the outbreak is contained.
The CDC has registered 1,250 cases of measles in 31 US states since January 1, the highest since 1992.
The increase is mainly due to a few large outbreaks, particularly in New York, where more than 75 % of the population live cases this year, according to the CDC. In April, New York City declared a public health emergency and, after hundreds of sick people, completed compulsory vaccinations in certain postcodes.
The CDC believes that bad information disseminated through social media has played an important role in turning away vaccines from parents. It has pointed to the now debunked theory that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is linked to autism.
"Resistance to vaccination and the spread of misinformation about vaccines is a big concern for paediatricians. Probably our current main problem, "Dr. Hugo Scornik, a Conyers pediatrician.
Scornik, vice president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other doctors are doing their best to get information about the importance of vaccines for the prevention of very serious childhood illnesses.
And when parents refuse to vaccinate their children, he said that sometimes he has no choice but to ask the family to change the pediatric practices to avoid exposing other patients.
"It's not the desired result," he said.
The writer's assistant Chelsea Prince contributed to this article.
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