Could Maricopa County see a Measles outbreak?

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Health officials are responding to a recent report that Maricopa County continues to be a high-risk area for a Measles outbreak, despite the fact that there hasn't been a single outbreak in the county this year.

While there has been one case of Measles in Arizona this year, it was in Pima County, and it involved an infant who was diagnosed in March. While there hasn't been a big outbreak in the Valley recently, health officials said they are making sure parents know that the risk is there, in light of what has been happening in other parts of the country.

Jessica Rigler with the Arizona Department of Health Services practices what she preaches.

"I have one daughter, she's fully vaccinated," said Rigler.

And Rigler is encouraging others to do the same. Maricopa County still has a high risk for Measles outbreak, and a research published by The Lancet explained why. The first reason is traveling, as Phoenix Sky Harbor is one of the nation's busiest international airports.

Another reason is low vaccination rates, as Arizona law allows for non-medical exemptions based on personal beliefs.

"Over the last several years, we've actually seen an increase in parents choosing not to vaccinate their children," said Rigler. "For the 2018-2019 school year, about six percent of our kindergarteners were exempt from one or more school-required vaccines."

The biggest concern comes from Measles continuing to spread in other parts of the country. Just in the last week, CDC officials reported 75 more measles cases in the U.S., bringing the total to more than 800 this year, making it the largest Measles outbreak in 25 years.

"Measles is a really serious disease," said Rigler. "It can cause hospitalization, many adverse outcomes, including bringing down your immune system for several months to years after infection.

The counties ranking ahead of Maricopa County in terms of risk of future outbreaks were regions surrounding other large cities, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Queens in New York, and Seattle.

According to officials, a lot of these outbreaks involve those who were not vaccinated. Symptoms of Measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, red watery eyes and a rash that usually starts seven to 12 days after exposure. Those who think they have Measles should see a doctor, and be contained to prevent spreading the infection.

Arizona Department of Health Services information on Measles