With an outbreak of measles in Oakland County, Livingston County doctors are encouraging families to make certain their loved ones are immunized.

Since March 13th, 22 cases of measles have been confirmed in Oakland and Wayne Counties. Livingston County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Donald Lawrenchuk said residents locally and across the state should be concerned. Only 1 case of measles is what it takes to be declared an epidemic, and usually there aren’t any in a given year in Michigan. The highly contagious disease has been linked to a person who was visiting from Israel and had stayed in New York, where there is a measles outbreak, and then come to the Detroit suburbs. Lawrenchuk shared some of the symptoms to watch out for. He said it usually begins with a with a cough and conjunctivitis, with the infected person believing they’re just getting a cold or fever, possibly brushing it off. After 3 to 5 days, the classic rash appears, usually on the face, and then spreads.
Lawrenchuk said sometimes, however, a modified case of measles appears with minimal rash, or none at all, and this seems to have been the case with the originally infected individual.

The doctor said they don’t want people to panic, but they need to be informed so they make intelligent rational decisions, regarding their family’s health. Lawrenchuk said immunization is important and to make certain everyone’s had 2 doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. He said it’s very safe and very effective. People born before on or before January 1st, 1957 may have natural immunity from having been exposed as children, but the vast majority born after, Lawrenchuk says, should check with their own health care provider. Usually the 1st dose is given after a child’s 1st birthday, and the 2nd just before kindergarten. While it’s a required immunization for school children, Lawerenchuck said there are several hundred in Livingston County who have legal waivers and aren’t vaccinated. If the disease comes to Livingston County, those children may have to be excluded from all school-related activities, not just classroom-activities, for the length of the outbreak.

Lawrenchuk said that if you need the vaccine and your local physician doesn’t have it in stock, many local pharmacies are well stocked. He said the Livingston County Health Department is also an option. The doctor said that people can typically come in on Wednesdays for a vaccination, and that while they suggest they call ahead and make an appointment, no one will be turned away if they show up. Lawrenchuk said they will do their very best to accommodate people as they come in. (MK)