SHILOH: 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. From there, the highly contagious disease spread quickly because of a lower rate of vaccination among the Amish.
Health officials believe the outbreak is slowing in Ohio thanks to vaccination clinics, door-to-door visits by public health nurses and cooperation by the Amish, who quickly quarantined themselves when measles was present. 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 others from around the globe. And a large annual auction that raises money to help Amish families pay medical bills for children with birth defects is scheduled for Saturday.
The country has 54 cases of measles and one hospitalization. Most of its Amish were already vaccinated before the outbreak, McFadden said.
The Amish eschew many conveniences of modern life. Their religion does not prevent them from seeking vaccinations, but because their children don't attend traditional public schools, vaccinations are not required and therefore not routine.
Organizers of Horse Progress days said they are distributing letters to international visitors warning them of potential measles exposure. Past events have drawn non-Amish from Australia, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Posters will provide information about measles and encourage people with symptoms to go home, and a hospital will provide free vaccinations Friday, general coordinator Daniel Wengerd said.
The Ohio outbreak is the biggest in the U.S. since 1994. Overall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tracking 529 cases in 20 states, with the next biggest outbreaks in California and New York, none of which involve the Amish.