"We would consider that to be an outbreak because measles does not typically circulate in the United States apart from cases being imported into the country via residents who have traveled to other countries and bring the virus back," said Justin Albertson, Vaccine-Preventable Disease Epidemiologist for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
"Any time you have a measles case, we have to treat it as an outbreak because measles is so contagious," said Dr. Sue Lynn Ledford, Wake County Public Health Division Director. "It's very easy to contract because it's an airborne illness and you can walk through a room where someone has measles and contract the disease."
The CDC is reporting 107 measles cases in 21 states, including North Carolina. They were reported between January 1 and July 14.
The majority of the people who got the measles were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.
In North Carolina, Albertson said the three cases were reported after a resident in Johnston County traveled overseas, got the measles then came back to North Carolina and infected two people in the household. All three have recovered. The residents went to facilities in Wake County, Dr. Ledford said.
Health officials are reminding everybody to make sure they have two doses of the measles vaccine. The first one is typically administered when a child is 1 year old and the second before the child goes to school, between the ages of 4 and 6. You can contact your doctor or health department for information on the vaccine.
"As time goes on, immunity can wane, meaning that people who were vaccinated several years ago can be susceptible to measles after a period of many years," Albertson said.
MORE: NC K-12 immunization requirements
"Obviously nobody wants the rash that goes along with measles either," Dr. Ledford said. "But there are some very severe illnesses that are associated with measles."
Measles is an airborne virus that spreads through coughing and sneezing.
Symptoms show up 10-14 days after exposure. The symptoms last 7-10 days and include a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red eyes followed by a rash that typically starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.
According to the CDC, some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia and brain swelling which could result in hospitalization or death.