The measles outbreak that which has attacked 138 Amish residents of Cattaraugus County has spread to Chautauqua County's Amish, Health Commissioner Robert Berke revealed Wednesday.
Berke said 13 measles cases have been confirmed. Most are in the Conewango area in the eastern part of the county adjacent to the Amish settlement in Cattaraugus County. However, one case occurred in the Clymer-Sherman area and another near Dewittville, in other Amish neighborhoods.
Berke called Amish residents of both counties "high risk" because of general lack of immunization. "We have had an excellent response from the Sherman-Clymer Amish," Berke noted, "a lukewarm response from the Dewittville-Hartfield area, and a reasonbly good response from Conewango."
The commissioner is urging non-immunized Amish residents to restrict travel to limit the spread of the disease. He is promoting immunization through special clinics and door-to-door visits.
"We are sitting with bated breath," he said, "waiting for the incubation period to run out." He expects more cases, however, because some of the victims attended large gatherings before they knew they had the disease. "We suspect based on the unimmunized status of these individuals," he said, "we may come down with a large number of cases."
Berke also is calling for high levels of immunity in the general public, noting the state Health Department recommends immunization for all persons born since Jan. 1, 1957.
Even for persons who have been vaccinated, Berke suggested that those with direct exposure to the Amish community should see their doctors about reimmunization.
Berke has been telling Amish families who may have been exposed to keep their children out of school until they come down with the disease or the incubation period has passed.
While Cattaraugus County Amish are also experiencing a whooping cough outbreak, no cases of that disease have been reported in Chautauqua County. "We're keeping our fingers crossed," Berke said. "That can be a very bad disease."