Measles warning: North Carolina health officials urge residents to take precautions to avoid infection

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- With multiple measles outbreaks happening in the United States, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging people to take preventative measures against the virus.

The department is saying that a vaccination is the front-line defense against the virus.

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According to a release from the NCDHHS, 764 people from 23 states were confirmed to have measles from Jan. 1 to May 3, 2019. No measles cases have been reported in North Carolina yet this year.

However, North Carolina had three reported cases of measles in 2018. The last large measles outbreak in NC happened in 2013, with 23 reported cases. It happened after an unvaccinated traveler returned from India to a community with a low vaccination rate.

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"Measles is a highly contagious disease and it spreads quickly in children and adults who are not vaccinated," said State Health Director and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Elizabeth Tilson, M.D. "All North Carolinians should ensure they and their families are up-to-date on their MMR vaccine."

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Measles can be prevented by the combination MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Public health experts recommend all children receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose beginning at 12 months of age and a booster at four to six years of age.

"In general, our rates of vaccination have been very high in North Carolina. Our kindergarten rates are about 97 percent. We're some of the highest in the country of our immunization rates so overall our state has had very high immunization rates, which I think has protected our state and keeping our people safe," said Tilson.

The department is also recommending that adults born in 1957 or later who have not already been vaccinated get at least one dose of the MMR vaccine.

On the other hand, certain adults should get two doses, including college students, healthcare workers and people who travel internationally.

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