ADVERTISEMENT

Mennonite girls gathered at a health clinic that offered measles, mumps and rubella vaccinations in Shiloh, Ohio.

Tom E. Puskar • Associated Press,

Tourists arrive in Amish country amid measles outbreak

  • Article by: Andrew Welsh-Huggins
  • Associated Press
  • July 1, 2014 - 8:04 PM

– Visitors from around the world to two upcoming events in Ohio’s Amish country could come away with more than they bargained for, health officials fear — a case of measles from the nation’s largest outbreak in two decades.

The outbreak, with more than 360 cases, started after Amish travelers to the Philippines contracted measles this year and returned home to rural Knox County, where it spread thanks to a lower rate of vaccination among the Amish and the difficulty public health authorities had in getting the word out to rural communities where phones are few and the Internet is nonexistent.

Health officials believe the outbreak is slowing in Ohio thanks to vaccination clinics and door-to-door visits by public health nurses. But Horse Progress Days, an international showcase of horse-drawn equipment scheduled for Friday and Saturday, is expected to draw more than 20,000 Amish and other visitors from around the globe. And a large annual auction that raises money to help Amish families pay medical bills is Saturday.

Authorities are trying to spread education — and vaccinations. “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,” said Dr. D.J. McFadden, health commissioner in Holmes County, site of Horse Progress Days.

The county has 54 cases of measles and one hospitalization. Most of its Amish were already vaccinated before the outbreak, McFadden said.

Before widespread vaccinations in the United States beginning in the 1950s, 450 to 500 people died each year. Though nearly eradicated in the United States, measles is common in many parts of Asia, the Pacific and Africa.

The Amish aren’t prevented from seeking vaccinations, but because their children don’t attend traditional public schools vaccinations are not required.

Organizers of Horse Progress days said they are distributing letters to international visitors warning them of potential measles exposure. Posters will provide information about measles and encourage people with symptoms to go home, and a hospital will provide free vaccinations Friday.

© 2014 Star Tribune