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Ohio reports its first case of measles in two years in a national epidemic

Ohio has its first case of measles and the state's health department has urged parents to vaccinate against the infectious disease.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of public health, said Friday that the resident of Stark County with measles had recently returned to a state with confirmed cases of measles. This case is the first confirmed case of measles in two years. The last outbreak of the disease in Ohio was in 2014, with 382 confirmed cases.

The nation is experiencing a significant spread of measles, with 28 states reporting cases.

"Vaccines save lives, one point is everything. I urge anyone who can to get vaccinated, "Acton said in a statement Friday. "Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to prevent serious vaccine-preventable diseases in children and adults, including measles."

Measles is contagious and can be transmitted to others by coughing and sneezing. If a person has measles, up to 90% of those who come in contact with that person and who are not immunized will also be infected.

The measles virus can live up to two hours in the air, when an infected person coughs or sneezes. If other people breathe contaminated air or touch an infected surface, then their eyes, nose or mouth, they can become infected.

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People infected with measles can pass the virus to other people four days before and up to four days after the onset of a rash.

Measles is still common in many parts of the world and large-scale epidemics are currently occurring in Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Ukraine and the Philippines. Travelers with measles introduce the disease into the United States, where it can spread to communities with pockets of unimmunized people.

Individuals planning international travel are encouraged to contact their health care providers to ensure that they are fully protected against measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

The symptoms of measles include skin rash, high fever, runny nose, cough, loss of appetite and red, watery eyes. The rash usually lasts five to six days and begins at the level of the hairline, moves to the face and upper neck, and then descends into the body. Diarrhea and ear infections are common complications of measles. More serious complications may also occur.

The complications of measles are more common in children under 5, adults over 20, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Follow Anne Saker on Twitter: @apsaker

This article originally appeared in Cincinnati Enquirer: Measles: Ohio reports the first case of the year in Stark County

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