Following confirmed case of measles in Clay County, more cases likely

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The confirmed case of measles in a Clay County baby is part of a bigger problem with measles in the U.S. this year. In 2014 there has been a spike in measles contributing to the most reported cases since 1996. An infectious disease specialist says where there is one case, more almost always follow since measles is very contagious.

Before the rash pops up, measles has symptoms that can be so many other things. It starts with a runny nose, cough, fever and red eyes. Dr. Christopher Harrison said a person has already been contagious for three days before the rash appears.

"And this is one of those viruses that can spread across the room. If you're within 15 feet of them for very long, you have been exposed," the infectious disease specialist said.

Dr. Harrison is with Children's Mercy Hospital where the Clay County baby was treated and released. He says the one case could lead to more.

"Would we expect secondary cases? We hope not, but there's almost always some," he said.

Dr. Harrison said the baby and family had returned to the U.S. after traveling to the Pacific Rim. In the Philippines this year, there have been 26,000 cases of measles. The epidemic is likely the result of a breakdown in vaccination after the typhoon there.

In the U.S. this year, there have been 187 cases of measles in 17 states with the Centers for Disease Control saying several dozen cases have been in young children who'd returned from the Philippines.

The Clay County baby had not been vaccinated. The first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is not given until 12 to 15 months since it doesn't offer good protection before then.

"So anyone who's younger than that age is not protected. And they actually have the most severe disease usually," said Dr. Harrison.

Worldwide, 164,000 people die from measles each year.

Catherine McMurray received her first dose of MMR vaccine on Wednesday at a Children's Mercy clinic. The second dose will come before kindergarten. Her mother said she's relieved knowing that her child now has protection.

Besides vaccination, you can prevent the spread by keeping children with fever away from others. The Clay County Public Health Center says family members of the baby have been appropriately vaccinated. The baby did not go to daycare.

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