Missouri, Kansas health departments partner against measles

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday it is now working with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to handle a potential exposure to the measles virus.

This comes after an announcement from KDHE said there was possible exposure to the virus during an informal softball tournament in Wichita, Kansas over the Fourth of July weekend. KDHE said there have been no confirmed measles cases associated with this event.

Eight teams from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas participated in the tournament at the South Lake Sports Complex.

Measles is a respiratory virus which is usually prevented with the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine at a young age. Although rare in the United States, KDHE said approximately 20 million people contract the virus worldwide each year.

Measles has re-emerged since the beginning of 2014. As of July 11, 566 confirmed measles cases have been reported across 20 states. This is the highest number since 2000.

According to KDHE, the best way to defend against the virus is vaccination. The most common measles cases take place in people who are not immunized.

"The best way to keep from getting the disease is by being vaccinated. Protect children by making sure they have the MMR vaccine when they are 12 to 15 months old, and again before they enter kindergarten," said KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer Dr. Robert Moser, in a statement. 

According to Andrea Waner, the public information officer for Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, people who choose not to vaccinate their kids put them at risk for some rare diseases. Many of these diseases are not extinct, but haven't been seen in recent years.

"Vaccinations are their own worst enemy because they protect so well that these diseases go out of sight, out of mind, and people think they don't need to be vaccinated because the diseases aren't affecting their realities every day. That's just not the case," Waner said.

Measles symptoms include fever, blotchy rashes on the skin, coughing, a runny nose, red, watery eyes, feeling "run down" or achy, and tiny, white spots inside the mouth.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus is urged to contact their health care provider as soon as possible. These people should avoid going to the emergency room as this could result in further exposure.