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Measles Outbreak: Could North Carolina Be Next?

By James LaCorte | February 6, 2015 | Health Conditions

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Even though measles was considered gone in the United States by around 2000, an outbreak in January that started at Disneyland spread to 14 states (but not North Carolina). So far 102 people have gotten measles. While we don’t know for sure, experts think an international traveler brought the disease to the U.S. and it quickly spread to others who were not vaccinated.

Think this can’t impact us in North Carolina? Well, consider that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that the most recent measles outbreak in NC was April 2013. This was the first outbreak in 25 years and the impact was real:

  • Twenty-three cases of measles
  • More than 1,000 people were exposed in nine counties
  • 89 people were quarantined for 21 days
  • 350 healthcare workers were exposed to measles
  • Outbreak lasted 42 days

Measles continues to make people very sick in many countries. The numbers above could have been a lot worse if North Carolina had a low vaccination rate.

How an infectious disease spreads

The image below is from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It shows what can happen in three community examples: no one is immunized, some are immunized, and most are immunized.

This clearly shows the importance of getting vaccinated for your health and the health of others. To make sure more people can get vaccines, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all insurance plans to cover vaccinations at 100 percent of their cost.

When fear breeds danger

The good news is that vaccine rates are high in North Carolina. But in recent years, interest groups and some celebrities linked vaccines to autism and other health problems — a theory that has long been proven false. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports seeing a small, but growing number of people deciding to not get shots.

Some also think diseases, like the measles, aren’t around anymore. But science tells us it’s important for people to keep getting shots. When we’re vaccinated, we protect ourselves and our families from diseases. We also protect others who may not be able to get a vaccine for medical reasons.

Dr. Brian Caveney, a BCBSNC vice president and medical director, stresses the importance of vaccinations: “No one wants our kids to be sick, and it is disruptive to homes, schools and workplaces. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you and your family, but in most cases, vaccination is the simple and free way to prevent this potentially deadly disease.”

Vaccinations in North Carolina 

There are laws in North Carolina requiring vaccines. Children are not allowed to attend schools unless they get all needed vaccinations. But there are some medical and religious exemptions.

Because our vaccination rate is high, vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in North Carolina. This list from N.C. Health and Human Services is a good guide to 22 such diseases.

The National Immunization Survey  (NIS) tracks immunization rates for each state. This table summarizes the data for North Carolina from 2011 to 2013, showing how we compare.


Age N.C. Average Rank
(out of 50 states)
19-35 months 12
13-17 years 16
65 years and older 10



Here are some additional resources on vaccinations: