While city school officials planned to bar 151 students from Roland Park Elementary-Middle School today because they lacked a required measles booster shot, their counterparts in Baltimore County were breathing slightly easier, having seen no new cases there in three weeks.
Central Maryland schools continue to grapple with an outbreak of the viral disease. In several school systems, students have been required to get a second inoculation against measles or prove they have had such a booster shot since they were middle-school age.
In Baltimore, Roland Park Elementary-Middle has reported two confirmed measles cases. The City Health Department late last month ordered that all students receive a measles booster. From now on, students at Roland Park will not be allowed to attend school unless they can show proof of getting a booster shot.
Health officials had offered a series of free vaccination clinics at Roland Park, but plan no more free shots, a school department spokeswoman said.
In Baltimore County, the health department will continue its effort to stop the spread of measles by vaccinating sixth-grade students through the end of the month.
Four cases of measles have been reported in the county this year, said Bill Follett, director of health education and public information for the county Health Department. However, the last new case was reported on March 22, which Follett said is an encouraging sign.
"Usually, cases are reported pretty close together. . . . These are low numbers, but you don't want it to happen at all."
Measles is considered the most serious of the common childhood diseases. It is highly contagious and includes several days of flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that can cover the body. The disease can result in encephalitis, leading to convulsions, deafness or mental retardation. It also is potentially fatal.
The spread of the disease in Baltimore County may have started at a wrestling match in Westminster on March 2, said Dr. John D. Stafford, chief of communicable diseases for the department.
Since the match, cases of measles have been confirmed at Randallstown High and at Maiden Choice Center. Students at both schools have been vaccinated by the health department.
Follett said the department is concentrating on vaccinating middle-school children because most older students were vaccinated during measles outbreaks in previous years.
This year, the department has vaccinated about 225 middle-school children, and plans to vaccinate 750 more.
For children who are not vaccinated at school, the department will sponsor three clinics. Shots will be given between 3 and 6 p.m. at the Eastern Regional Health Center on April 29; the Towson Health Center on June 3, and at Liberty Resource Center on June 10.
Vaccinations will be free. No appointment will be necessary.
Although children will not be admitted to school without proof of vaccination, Follett said that, "as far as we know, no kids have been prevented from attending school."