COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 14 (UPI) -- Unvaccinated Amish missionaries who visited the Philippines triggered the latest U.S. outbreak of measles in Ohio where 73 cases are confirmed. Ohio is also in the middle of an outbreak of mumps involving more than 300 cases.
The Ohio Department of Health said the earliest onset of symptoms occurred March 22, while the most recent onset of symptoms began Sunday. The measles patients are between ages 1 and 52. Of these patients, 35 are female and 38 male. Some hospitalizations were reported, but most people recovered on their own, health officials said in a statement.
The state and local health departments in Ohio are encouraging residents to get vaccinated with the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine. Several clinics are scheduling appointments for those who wish to get the vaccine.
A Knox County health official said thousands of Amish traditionally have low vaccination rates but "they have been very receptive to coming in and getting immunized," USA Today reported.
Some of the unvaccinated missionaries told Knox health officials they would have gotten vaccinated before their trip to the Philippines if they had been told of the outbreak there.
The Ohio Department of Health said "immunizations are the most effective way to prevent illness from vaccine-preventable diseases. The ongoing measles and mumps outbreaks in Ohio also serve as a reminder to all Ohioans that they should be up-to-date on immunizations."
Since January, there have been 187 cases of measles nationwide reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Since U.S. measles elimination was documented in 2000, the cases of measles ranged from a low of 37 in 2004 to a high of 220 in 2011. Cases of measles in the United States occur when visitors from other countries or U.S. citizens travel abroad become infected and spread the infection to the unvaccinated.
Measles is so contagious that if one person has the disease, 90 percent of those close to the person who are not immune will also become infected. When the infected person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air and these droplets are inhaled, or a person touches an infected surface -- something sneezed or coughed on -- and then touches her or her nose or mouth. The virus can live on an infected surface for up to 2 hours, the CDC said.
Measles causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash. About 1 of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, up 1 in 20 gets pneumonia, 1 of 1,000 gets encephalitis, and one or two out of 1,000 die, the CDC said.