If measles strikes Kansas City, it would be second time in less than a year

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KANSAS CITY, Mo -- The measles outbreak that started at Disneyland is up to 87 confirmed cases. If it reaches Kansas City, it would be the second time in less than a year that the metro has dealt with this very contagious disease. An outbreak that spread from Kansas City to Wichita was the third largest in the U.S. last year.

At one-year-old, Saba Karim is getting protection against measles and other diseases at the Kansas City Health Department. The family recently moved her from New York, so they missed the outbreak of measles in the metro last summer. There were 28 cases, including one child that health officials say had severe complications. The outbreak started with a case in a baby who was too young to get the vaccine. Where the baby got measles is unclear.

"It spread within the house and then beyond because of others being not vaccinated," said Lisa Hubbert, epidemiology specialist.

Hubbert led the investigation for the Kansas City Healht Department, and says measures taken to stop measles then could be used again if the current outbreak reaches here. She says quarantine was very effective. Sixty-four people in the metro who were exposed to measles in their homes could not leave them for any reason for at least three weeks. Ten adults developed measles while they were quarantined.

"If they had been working, if they were not under quarantine, it would have exposed so many more people to the illness," said Hubbert.

She says immune globulin and vaccination were helpful in stopping the spread among people who had more limited contact with those infected. Hubbert worries that Kansas City is still vulnerable.

"I think we're lacking in the herd immunity for the measles," said Hubbert.

That means having 94 percent of the population vaccinated. It makes it harder for measles to spread.

Hearing about measles, Sapna Karim thinks there's much to gain from the little pain her daughter experienced while being vaccinated.

"Everybody should get the shots," she said.

Hubbert and her staff received an award from the Missouri Public Health Association for stopping last year's outbreak. But she hopes they don't have to do that again.

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