The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Tuesday it had confirmed three more measles cases in Sedgwick County. That brings the total number of cases to 11.
Of those three cases, current through Saturday, one is the cook at Sumo by Nambara reported to have contracted the disease last week. The KDHE did not have information about the two other new cases Tuesday afternoon, said KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow.
Preston Goering, director of the county’s Preventative Health division, first broke the news Tuesday morning to county commissioners.
At a Sedgwick County Commission staff meeting, Goering said the county is “expecting more cases to come up,” at least through the second week of August.
The incubation period for measles can last up to three weeks, Rosenow said, and in order for a measles outbreak to be considered over, two incubation periods have to pass without new cases arising. The last public onset of the disease was on July 15, she said, so that means the soonest the outbreak could be considered over is by Aug. 26.
“We’ve been working pretty hard at containing the outbreak,” Goering said. “Every day our staff has been going to several homes to take temperatures and check for symptoms when there has been exposure.”
The county has been meeting twice a day with KDHE officials to update the situation, he said. Employees at Sal’s Japanese Steakhouse and Sumo by Nambara – both of which reported employees contracting the disease – have been cooperative, he said. He said health officials have also been investigating at the Wichita Marriott on Corporate Hills Drive.
Rosenow confirmed that an employee at the Marriott had contracted the disease, creating potential exposure points at the hotel on June 29, June 30 and July 2. So far there have been no cases associated with this exposure point, she said. Investigators have sent letters to employees at the hotel and guests who stayed there on those days informing them of the potential exposure, she said. She did not know what the employee’s position in the hotel was.
“I’m not sure that it necessarily is relevant where they worked in the hotel,” Rosenow said. “Most people in the room would be exposed just because of how contagious this disease is.”
Messages left with the Marriott’s human resources department were not returned Tuesday afternoon.
Since the county has staffed its measles hotline, it has been receiving about 10 to 25 calls per day, “most with basic questions, like ‘How do I know if I have measles?’ ” Goering said.
At a free vaccination clinic on Saturday, health officials dispensed 63 shots, he said.
Up until a few years ago, Goering said, measles “was pretty much considered to be eliminated, but because of foreign travel and refusal by some to vaccinate, we’re seeing a few more cases.”
Measles is an airborne illness that can be spread to others four days before to four days after a rash actually appears, Rosenow said.
The traditional best defense against measles has been seen as the vaccine, which was first introduced in 1963, she said. In 1971, the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) combination vaccine was introduced.
The United States has seen an uptick in measles cases this year, with 580 confirmed cases in 20 states, more than doubling the previous high of 222 cases in 2011. Since measles was considered to be eliminated in 2000, most years the number of total cases does not exceed 100.
“The overall messages still apply, obviously,” Rosenow said. “Getting vaccinated … is the best way to prevent getting measles.”