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CDC: South Forsyth student didn't have measles after all

SOUTH FORSYTH — A third round of tests on specimens from a third-grader at Sharon Elementary School who was initially diagnosed with measles last week has come back negative, officials said.

Nancy Nydam, media relations manager for the Georgia Public Health Lab, confirmed the results from the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, on Tuesday.

The CDC was the last test for the child after an initial examination showed positive results and the second was ruled negative.

The Health Lab tested the student for measles, which would have been the first case in Forsyth County in possibly 25 years, after a local check showed traces of the highly contagious virus.

It was “not an unusual circumstance” for an initial test to pick up a different virus but for it to show as measles, Nydam said. The Health Lab’s test is “considered one of the most definitive tests for measles,” but specimens were sent to the CDC “out of an abundance of caution.”

Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said, “It’s our normal operating procedure for a physician to notify the [county] health department, who then notified [the school system], and we notified parents.”

The conflicting messages received by parents of the 1,063 students at the school on Old Atlanta Road in south Forsyth stemmed from an email sent out before the Health Lab confirmed its results.

But waiting to notify them until the district had received confirmation from the state and CDC would have taken a week, Caracciolo said, and the risk was too great had the child tested positive a second or third time.

“Because measles is a notifiable disease, the state was involved to a greater extent,” she said. “We are planning a debriefing with the [local] District 2 Public Health Department and hopefully the state department to be able to assist other schools that may encounter this procedure in the future.”

Caracciolo said the school system received confirmation of the CDC results on Tuesday, and Sharon’s principal, Amy Bartlett, would be sending an email to parents.

“Early on, parents wanted more information on who the child was,” Caracciolo said. “But after the initial notification, many understood why we couldn’t give them any more.”

The district is not required by law — in fact, it’s protected by student and health care confidentiality laws — to disclose information about a student in such cases.

If parents have concerns or questions about the process, they are asked to contact their school principal. If they have concerns or questions about the health of their own child, they are urged to contact their child’s physician, Caracciolo said.

Last week, Dave Palmer, spokesman for the District 2 health department, said there had not been a measles case in Forsyth “dating back to 1990” and that data can’t be retrieved prior to that.

He added the county’s immunization rate of more than 99 percent is one of the highest in Georgia.

According to the school district’s website, all children entering the system are required to have been vaccinated for measles, among other diseases.

Of the 42,747 students enrolled in the school system, 662 have completed waivers for the measles or measles-mumps-rubella vaccines. Of those, 66 are for medical reasons, with the rest exempt on religious grounds.