VAN WERT — There have been no cases in Van Wert County, But officials at the Van Wert County Health Department say it is a good idea to exercise caution during an outbreak of measles. Checking vaccinations is also recommended since most of those persons with the disease were not vaccinated against measles.

The disease, which has not claimed a single life in this country since 2003 has hit a 20-year high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed the number of cases in the country diagnosed at around 307 since the beginning of 2014. Those statistics were released on Thursday. In Ohio, most of the cases have been centered around Knox and Holmes counties. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) confirmed 160 cases in a Thursday press release. They noted that the initial cases were from unvaccinated traveler who returned to Ohio from the Philippines.

Now, the Van Wert County Health Department is recommending caution while traveling to the eastern part of the state, or out of the country, and to be sure that vaccinations are up to date.

According to a Health Department statement, “Individuals who are not currently vaccinated against the measles are encouraged to contact the health department or their physician to obtain the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine should begin providing effective protection against measles within 2-4 weeks after it is given.”

“When fully vaccinated, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is 97 percent effective in preventing the measles,” said ODH Interim Director Lance Himes.

The ODH is also recommending that new high school and college graduates check to be sure their vaccinations are up-to-date. So far, the ODH has distributed more than 13,000 doses of the MMR vaccine to combat the measles outbreak.

Measles is an acute, highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is easily spread. Symptoms of the measles usually appear in 7-21 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, pink eye and a rash. The disease is highly contagious and can be transmitted from four days prior to the onset of the rash to four days after the onset. Anyone who is not immunized and gets exposed to the disease has a high likelihood of getting ill.

The ODH and its local public health partners support the vaccine recommendations set forth by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and CDC. These recommendations include vaccination schedules for when individuals (children and adults) should receive their vaccinations