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Ohio measles outbreak confirmed in Amish community

WCPO in Cincinnati reported on April 25 that lab tests have confirmed an outbreak of measles in Knox and Holmes County in east-central Ohio. The outbreak consists of 16 patients at this time. It began when several unvaccinated residents returned from the Philippines.

Chart displaying reported cases of measles in the United States from 2001 through 2014
CDC / public domain

The Knox County Health Department describes the source of the outbreak as residents returning from a humanitarian mission to the typhoon devastated Philippines.

NBC News reports that the individuals were members of the large Amish and Mennonite communities in the area. While neither faith condemns vaccination, NBC notes, vaccination rates are usually lower in those communities. NBC is reporting that vaccination clinics set up in the Amish community are attracting large numbers.

Four individuals returned to the area from a humanitarian aid mission to the Philippines in March. Those four are believed to have infected the remaining 12 known patients. The mission was organized by Christian Aid Ministries, an Amish-Mennonite organization.

Ohio's Amish country consists of several counties in east-central Ohio. In Holmes County, where there are measles cases, nearly half the population is Amish. Various estimates place the Amish population of the state at over 60,000 people.

Measles has appeared in a number of religious communities in the last two years. The largest outbreak of measles in North America in 2014 was in a large community of members of the Dutch Reformed Church in British Columbia. That outbreak has spilled over into the state of Washington where six measles cases are tied to the British Columbia epidemic.

In 2013, a measles outbreak occurred among members of a church tied to the Copeland Ministry in Texas. A large outbreak was seen the the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. In North Carolina, a measles outbreak took place in a Hindu community.

Prior to this outbreak, most of the measles cases in 2014 have not been tied to any religious group. The outbreaks in California, New York and Washington have links to overseas travel and to unvaccinated or undervaccinated individuals.

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