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Worst U.S. measles outbreak in 20 years

ADAMS COUNTY, Ohio (Rich Jaffe) -- While many were inoculated against measles when they were children, those vaccinations are not common in the Amish community.

That's why the disease has spread like wildfire over the last few months.  The cases were reported primarily in northern Ohio but there was also a large Amish population east of Cincinnati in Adams county.

By no means was this strictly an Amish problem.  Amish folks traveled out of their communities on a regular basis, for shopping and business.  And members of the "English" community ventured into their communities for the same reasons.  The solution turned out to be vaccines and trust.

It was doctoring day in Adams County for dozens of members of the Amish community.  Vaccinations used to be rare.  But a couple of months ago, Amish missionaries coming back from Southeast Asia brought a strain of measles with them and it spread quickly in northern Ohio.  365 cases so far the week of June 30.

Many of the families in Adams County have relatives in the hot zone.  Out of respect for their customs, Local 12 agreed not to show the faces of the people like Daniel, who helped with the story.

With family in Holmes County, Daniel said, "I guess the first thought was stay away from them; wherever it's at.  Never really had any intentions of taking shots.  A lot of people did right away, weren't too excited about it but there's good results and there were some bad."

For 19 years, the Adams County Health Department used an Appalachian Hope van to bring modern medicine into isolated communities.  Thursday at Millers Bakery, the women and children of the Yutzy family made sure their loved ones were safe.

Adams County nursing director, Bev Mathias, explained, "If they have the van right in their neighborhood, they can get in their horse and buggy, ride right over to Millers Bakery. They can park right there, come on the van and they know us.  I'm on the van sometimes, we have another nurse, Suzy Adamson, on the van and they know her too."

Highly contagious measles can live outside the body for two hours, showing no symptoms.  People can carry it for as long as four days.  The disease virtually canceled the May wedding season for Amish in northern Ohio.

Daniel said, "Yeah, and what was so effective too.  People had it and didn't know it and they were already contagious. That's what got them in trouble. Yeah, there was no warning."

But there is help, and hope.  Measles usually show up as rash, with a runny nose, a cough and high fever.  It can lead to pneumonia and even death.  Doctors say if you were born before 1957, you're probably not at risk.  But you can check your immunity with a simple test and booster shots are available. 

Possibly thanks to the injections, so far there have been no cases in Adams County.

Follow Rich Jaffe on Twitter @rajaffe and LIKE him on Facebook




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