SOUTH FORSYTH — The Forsyth County school system has announced a third-grader at Sharon Elementary has been diagnosed with measles.
In an email sent Wednesday to parents of the 1,063 students at the school on Old Atlanta Road, Principal Amy Bartlett wrote that officials “do not mean to cause alarm but want to keep all of [you] informed when a case has been reported.”
Citing student and health care confidentiality laws, Forsyth County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said officials could not provide additional details, including whether the child has been cleared to return to school.
She said district officials and teachers understand parents’ concerns, but in an effort to protect the student’s privacy, ask them to “do what is best for their own child. Look at your child, see if they have the symptoms and go to a physician if they do.”
She did note, however, that this is a rare circumstance for the school system.
Dave Palmer, spokesman for the District 2 health department, said there has not been a measles case in Forsyth “dating back to 1990” and that data cannot be retrieved prior to that.
The student’s case has “not been laboratory confirmed by public health,” though the department is investigating the situation for “a possible case of measles.”
Forsyth has one of the highest immunizations rates of any county in Georgia at more than 99 percent, Palmer said.
According to the school district’s website, all children entering the system are required to have been vaccinated for measles, among other diseases.
Caracciolo said 662 students out of 42,747 have completed waivers for the Measles or Measles-Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccines. Of those, 66 are for medical reasons, with the rest exempt for religious reasons.
The school district is not releasing whether the student was vaccinated against measles or received a waiver for immunizations. And it was not immediately clear how he or she may have contracted the highly infectious disease.
While measles is probably best known for the full-body rash it causes, the first symptoms are usually a hacking cough, runny nose, pink eye and a high fever,
It is so contagious, Palmer said, that 9 out of 10 people around a person with the virus will also become infected if they are not protected by vaccination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one dose of the vaccine is about 93 percent effective at preventing the virus when exposed. Two doses are about 97 percent effective.
Only three out of every 100 people who get two doses of the vaccine still will get measles, the website said, though they are more likely to have a milder illness and are less likely to spread the disease.
Palmer said it is recommended for children to receive the first dose between the ages of 12 and 15 months and the second when they are 4 to 6 years old.
According to Bartlett’s email, the rash reportedly appears first on the forehead, and then spreads down over the face, neck and body to the arms and feet.
Parents whose children develop any of the above signs and symptoms are directed to contact their health care provider.
In her email, Bartlett notes that measles is “primarily transmitted from person to person by large respiratory droplets.”
According to the email, “The virus can be transmitted from four days before the rash becomes visible to four days after the rash appears. The first symptom is usually fever. The measles rash appears two to four days after the fever begins.”