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CDC Issues Alert Due to Kentucky Measles Case

Exposure at Asbury University’s news-making religious revival prompted the health advisory.

March 8, 2023

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) advisory, due to a confirmed measles case at a large religious gathering at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.

On February 24, 2023, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) identified a confirmed case of measles in an unvaccinated individual with a history of recent international travel. During February 17–18, the infected person went to the event at the university, which had an estimated 20,000 visitors from the United States as well as other countries in attendance.

According to the Washington Post, the religious revival at Asbury had gained international notoriety last month thanks to its viral nature on social media and its growth from a simple morning prayer service on February 8 to nearly two weeks of 24-hour worship. The non-stop nature of revival ended on February 19, after the school determined that the crowds had become too overwhelming.

“Students have not only had to juggle various campus commitments…but also the throngs of people who have entered the dimensions of their space,” Asbury University president Kevin J. Brown, said in a statement. “For some, this has created a sense of being unsettled and even alienation from their campus community.”

According to a release by the KDPH, this is the third confirmed case of measles in the state since January.

“Anyone who attended the revival on February 18 may have been exposed to measles,” said Dr. Steven Stack, KDPH commissioner. “Attendees who are unvaccinated are encouraged to quarantine for 21 days and to seek immunization with the measles vaccine, which is safe and effective.”

Measles is a highly contagious, acute viral illness that begins with a prodrome of fever, cough, runny nose, and conjunctivitis (pink eye), lasting two to four days prior to rash onset. The rash typically occurs three to five days after symptoms begin and usually appears on the face and spreads downward. Measles can cause severe health complications, including pneumonia, encephalitis, and death. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with infectious droplets or by airborne spread when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Measles virus can remain infectious in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected person leaves an area. Infected people are contagious from four days before the rash starts through four days afterwards. The incubation period for measles from exposure to fever is usually about 10 days; rash onset occurs after exposure in about 14 days.

With declines in measles vaccination rates globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, measles outbreaks are occurring in all World Health Organization (WHO) Regions. Large outbreaks (more than 20 reported measles cases per million population over a period of 12 months) have been reported in the European, African, Eastern Mediterranean, and Southeast Asian regions. The United States has seen an increase in measles cases from 49 in 2021 to 121 in 2022, all among children who weren’t fully vaccinated, including outbreaks in Minnesota and Ohio.

The CDC recommends that clinicians be on alert for cases that meet the case definition of measles. To learn more regarding the prevention and control of measles, including CDC recommendations for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting, check out the agency’s guide Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Measles in Healthcare Settings.

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