WICHITA, Kansas — Six total measles cases have now been reported in Sedgwick County. Of those, four cases were linked to Sal’s Japanese Steakhouse, located at 6829 E Kellogg Drive, in Wichita.
According to a press release distributed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, an employee at the Wichita steakhouse is linked to a recent measles outbreak in the Kansas City area. Two other employees at the restaurant then became infected.
The fourth reported measles case was found in an infant who was not vaccinated, whose only known exposure to the virus was at Sal’s Japanese Steakhouse.
KSN spoke with health officials to learn more about what is being done to stop the spread of measles in public places, along with what can be done to prevent another outbreak in the future.
“We expect more cases, yes,” said Adrienne Byrne-Lutz, the interim director of the Sedgwick Co. Health Department, “just because of how highly contagious measles are, and we know others have been exposed.”
The public health concern prompted the questions: Can employers require their employees to be vaccinated? Does the state of Kansas possess any control in the matter? Specifically, as it relates to food handlers?
KSN learned that no state law requires food handlers be current on their vaccination records.
“Having an employee vaccinated is outside of our jurisdiction and regulation,” said Beth Riffel, the director of Communications for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. “Currently, the code that we enforce is more food-related, relating to those diseases that are food-borne in nature,” she continued.
The KDA has overseen Food and Lodging since 2008 when an executive order reorganized a number of state agencies’ responsibilities.
“This situation is going to help everyone look at what their expectations, or what they should expect from employees, from staff, from everybody; just to make sure that we’re all up to date on our vaccinations,” said Byrne-Lutz.
The Sedgwick Co. Health Department advises that vaccination is crucial in regards to preventing the spread of measles.
Byrne-Lutz said vaccination is a matter of ‘social responsibility.’
“If someone comes in contact with measles, it’s a 85% – 90% chance they’re going to get the measles,” said Byrne-Lutz. “The best prevention is to be up-to-date on the vaccinations.”
The air-borne virus is highly contagious. The signs and symptoms of measles typically begin one to two weeks after someone is exposed to an infected person.
Measles symptoms include:
- Blotchy rash on the skin, which spreads from the head to the trunk then to the lower extremities (Measles can be spread to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.)
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis)
- Feeling run down, achy
- Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers found inside the mouth (Koplik spots)
“If you have a fever, stay home except to see a healthcare provider. If you need to visit your healthcare provider, call ahead so appropriate measures can be taken to protect other patients and staff,” said Adrienne Byrne-Lutz.
Residents who are concerned they may have contracted the measles are reminded not to go in to the Emergency Room.
The SCHD is operating a measles hotline for people who may not have a health care provider and have questions or concerns about the virus. That hotline is (316)660-7424.
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/Measles/index.html