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Major outbreak of measles among Amish in Ohio has officials concerned

Amish in Lancaster, PA
Amish in Lancaster, PA

Health officials in Ohio are concerned that the current outbreak of measles among the Amish communities in Ohio could get much worse if more is not done to get people vaccinated before two upcoming Mennonite events including “Horse Progress Days” in Holmes County. Holmes, which is home to one of the largest populations of Amish in the United States has had 54 out of a total 350 cases of measles among members of the sect so far, with one severe enough to require hospitalization.

“Horse Progress Days,” which is scheduled for this coming Thursday and Friday is an international event showcasing horse-drawn equipment. In addition, the annual auction there helps raise money to assist Amish families with medical bills for children with birth defects. The fair is expected to attract more than 20,000 visitors according to organizers.

It would be very easy for someone to come to these events, become exposed to others who didn’t even know they were sick, travel home, and start another outbreak in another community somewhere in this country or even overseas,” stated Dr. D.J. McFadden, who serves as Holmes County’s health commissioner.

It is already believed that the current measles outbreak was initiated by Amish travelers to the Phillipines, where they contracted the disease and then brought it unwittingly home with them to Knox County in Ohio. While inoculation centers have been set up throughout the state, it is not easy to spread the word among the rural communities which not only lack Internet service, but basic phone service as well.

The measles virus attacks the respiratory tract, as well as the eyes, and skin and is recognizable by a rash that can cover the entire body. Symptoms generally appear within 1-2 weeks after exposure such as sneezing, runny noses, cough, fever, red eyes and light sensitivity, as well as white spots in the mouth and throat. Complications can also include infections in the middle ear, as well as bronchitis, croup and pneumonia