Measles have hit Ohio Amish country and complicated two major events in the Knox County and Homes County community. Local officials have embarked on an educational campaign to combat the spread of the measles in the Amish community and to encourage vaccination.
Ohio Amish country is anticipating visitors from around world for two upcoming public events. The measles outbreak in Holmes County and Knox County is reportedly the largest such incident in the past 20 years. There are currently 360 reported cases. The outbreak is believed to have originated after Amish travelers to the Philippines contracted the measles and brought it back to the rural Ohio region. Health officials believe the extremely contagious disease spread so quickly because there is reportedly a lower vaccination rate among the Amish.
Holmes County Health Commissioner Doctor D.J. McFadden had this to say about the Amish measles outbreak:
“Very easily someone could come for these events, be exposed to someone who didn’t know that they were sick, and travel home, and start another outbreak in another community somewhere in the United States or overseas.”
Door-to-door visits by health department nurses and quickly planned vaccination clinics are a part of the public response to the measles outbreak.”
The Amish community is cooperating with the health department and immediately quarantined themselves when a case of measles was discovered in a family.
Horse Progress Days, an international showcase of horse-drawn equipment is a highly anticipated and well-attended event in Ohio Amish country. Horse Progress Days is slated to take place on July 4 and 5 and typically attracted more than 20,000 visitors from around the world. A massive annual Amish auction is also scheduled for Saturday. The auction also garners a gigantic crowd. Proceeds from the auction go to help Amish families pay for medical care for children born with birth defects.
McFadden added that although most of the Amish in Holmes County were vaccinated before the outbreak, 54 cases of measles have still been discovered – one resulting in hospitalization so far. Approximately 10,500 measles vaccines have been distributed in Ohio since the outbreak began, at least half of those were given out in Holmes County and central Ohio. Counties where cases of the measles have been reported also include: Highland, Wayne, Stark, Richland, Coshocton, Crawford, and Ashland.
Horse progress is held at the Mount Hope Auction facility, a huge, beautiful, and very clean Amish-run venue that attracts large crowds frequently throughout the year for various auctions. Tourism and Amish auctions are a significant part of the local economy. Hotels and campgrounds are completely booked when the events take place. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to attend the annual week-long auction and come home with a plethora of equine bargains.
Measles symptoms include coughs, rashes, pinkeye, and high fever. Before vaccines became readily available in the early 50s, measles killed about 500 in the United States each year. Approximately 48,000 people were hospitalized with the disease during that era, and another 1,000 suffered deafness or brain damage. Although the measles have been nearly eradicated in America, the disease is still common in Africa, the Pacific, and Asia.