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As a measles outbreak continues to spread, one Hamilton County school district is no longer allowing students who have not been immunized against the disease to attend classes at two schools.

White River Elementary and Noblesville Intermediate School students without the state-required measles vaccination won’t be allowed to attend school until further notice, school officials said Wednesday. Noblesville Schools also announced that all evening activities were canceled in an attempt to contain the disease.

About 250 teachers and staff members were vaccinated, had blood drawn or were found not at risk during a clinic Wednesday aimed at determining whether the measles had spread.

Results of that testing were needed to help school officials determine whether those schools would need to be closed today, said Mark Booth, the district’s director of student services.

“We have to have enough teachers to keep the school buildings open,” Booth said.

It was not known by press time Wednesday night whether the district had made the decision to close the schools today.

The two Noblesville schools were on a list state health officials released Tuesday showing the metro-area sites where people may have been exposed to the highly infectious respiratory disease.

The number of confirmed measles cases in the state has climbed to 13, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Booth said 21 preschool-age students, seven elementary students and 26 intermediate school students do not have measles immunizations and would not be able to attend the two schools without the shot.

He said about 230 of the 9,400 students districtwide — or about 2 percent — do not have measles immunizations.

However, students at White River Elementary who haven’t been immunized may receive the measles vaccine during a clinic today. The clinic will not be open to the general public.

Noblesville Schools staff members also were busy Wednesday calling parents of unimmunized children to try to persuade them to have their children vaccinated.

So far, the confirmed cases have been confined to those who had contact with the initial case or any of the children or adults subsequently sickened by the virus.

The outbreak began after an unvaccinated person had contact with someone from another country who had the disease, State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said earlier this week.

Two of the infected individuals were in the Super Bowl Village for about seven hours Feb. 3, state health officials said. Because they were together the whole time, the risk of exposure did not increase once the second case was confirmed.

Meanwhile, workplaces and churches in Central Indiana where individuals went while they might have been contagious scrambled this week to get the word out.

Measles is a highly contagious virus spread by contact or when droplets are coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person and then inhaled by others.

Measles is rare in the United States because of the high level of vaccination of children. The U.S. typically sees about 50 cases of measles each year. But there were 223 cases in 2011 — a 15-year high. The increase was attributable to Americans picking up the disease while abroad, where vaccination rates are dropping.

In 2005, an outbreak of 34 measles cases in Indiana was traced back to a group of parents who didn’t vaccinate their children because they were concerned about adverse health effects, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

People who have been vaccinated fully or who were born before 1957 enjoy almost complete immunity, experts say. However, state health officials have been urging those who are not vaccinated to seek two doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to be fully protected.

SOURCE: WWW.INDYSTAR.COM – Call Star reporter Betsy Reason at (317) 444-6049.

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