As measles cases continue to multiply in and around Sedgwick County, local hospitals are working to keep it from spreading even further.
So far, there have been eight confirmed cases in Sedgwick County and 11 total in Kansas.
Doctors say the first place you think to go when you are sick, is the last place you should go with the measles.
"It is very highly contagious so just being in the room with someone is a potential to catch measles if you are not immune," said Maggie Hagen, an infectious disease physician at Via Christi. "Meaning if you have not been vaccinated or you have not had the natural disease."
Wichita hospitals, like Via Christi, are partnering with the Sedgwick County Health Department to try and intercept patients before they enter the building.
"A case called the Sedgwick County Hotline (316-660-7424), gave them information that they were bringing a patient in [to the hospital]," said John Kephart, infection control consultant for Via Christi. "Sedgwick County in turn called us, we got the information and notified the emergency room. We actually met the family at the car and was able to put a mask on them, bring them directly in to the room, bypassed any chance of exposure to any other people in the waiting room."
Patients thought to have measles are taken to what are called "negative pressure" rooms. The rooms keep air in, rather than blow it out.
"In other words if the door is open, the air does not flow out into the hallway," said Hagan. "Air is circulated out of this room because measles can be contained in that air and could be contagious to other people."
Also, both the patient and health care officials wear masks as extra precaution.
Hagan said in her 20 years as an infectious disease physician in Kansas, this is the first year she's seen an outbreak.
"For anyone who is unaware of how unusual that is, generally we have no cases in Kansas every year," said Hagan. "The current outbreak that we are seeing is in unvaccinated persons, some of those are people who have not been vaccinated because they came from another country and some are too young to be vaccinated."
She said this year "it happened pretty quickly that we had a number of cases."
If a person who has the measles does walk into the waiting room, each family exposed to the virus will receive a letter from the hospital.
"We want to make sure that people are able to tell their family members, 'Hey on x day we were in the waiting room and another person in the waiting room had the measles, so we need to be aware of that,'" said Hagan.
As of July 16th, the CDC has recorded 566 confirmed cases of measles in 20 states.
If you believe you have the measles, call your doctor or call the Sedgwick County Health Department's Measles Hotline at 316-660-7424.
Frequently asked questions: (Via Christi)
Q: How contagious is the measles?
A: If a measles patient is in a room with 10 unvaccinated individuals, 9 out of 10 would get the disease
Q: How does measles spread?
A: The virus lives in the mucus in the nose and throat of the infected person. When that person sneezes or coughs, droplets spray into the air similar to the flu. The droplets can get into other people’s noses or throats when they breathe or put their fingers in their mouth or nose after touching an infected surface.
Q: I was vaccinated as a child, am I still immune?
A: Yes. As long as you got both doses of the vaccine (usually the first at 1 year of age, second before kindergarten) you are immune. You are also immune if you've had the measles in the past or if you were born before 1957 when measles was more common.
Q: What should I do if I have measles-like symptoms?
A: Call your doctor's office and speak with your doctor. If it is severe, the doctor will arrange for you to be seen in a quarantined environment where you will not expose others to the disease. If not, the doctor can talk you through how you can treat the disease from your home
Q: Who is most susceptible to having severe measles
A: High risk population includes young infants under the age of one and adults, especially those with immune deficiencies caused by such things as aids, organ transplants, chemo therapy or are on steroids in high doses. Even with those deficiencies, if the person had been previously vaccinated they are immune.