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Unvaccinated measles patient may have exposed 20,000 at nonstop worship event

Christians fill the Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., on Feb. 14, 2023. People prayed virtually nonstop in the auditorium when a regular school chapel spontaneously extended. Asbury has been the site of several previous well-known revivals, including in 1970. (Tim Whittaker)
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About 20,000 people may have been exposed to measles during a 24-hour spiritual revival that spanned nearly two weeks at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., state health officials warned after an unvaccinated worshiper was found to have the highly contagious virus that causes the illness.

Thousands traveled across city, county and state lines to participate in what was called “the Asbury Revival,” which stretched from Feb. 8 to Feb. 19 at the university’s chapel. Videos shared on TikTok and Instagram showed people praying, holding hands and crying to worship music. The gathering drew national attention to the small Christian school, located about 30 minutes from Lexington.

“Anyone who attended the revival on Feb. 18 may have been exposed to measles,” said state public health commissioner Steven Stack. “Attendees who are unvaccinated are encouraged to quarantine for 21 days and to seek immunization with the measles vaccine, which is safe and effective.”

Measles is a respiratory virus that is spread through the air. It is one of the most infectious pathogens on the planet, and it can be lethal, though a vaccine has long been available and required for children attending public schools across the country.

The state public health agency said it’s working with Asbury University, Jessamine County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit the spread of the disease and identify any additional cases. Asbury University administrators stated that they’re collaborating with health officials “to ensure all precautions are taken to mitigate any further spread.”

As of Thursday, it’s unclear if there are more cases on the campus or in the region. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nonstop worship service at Kentucky college set to end after attracting thousands

Early symptoms of measles can include fever, cough and runny nose, followed by a rash three to five days after symptoms begin.

“Large numbers of people that attended the gathering from across Kentucky and from other states and countries may have been exposed. An estimated 20,000 people attended the gathering on the days that the patient attended,” the CDC stated Thursday, adding that it’s possible for the virus to spread in connection with the event, “particularly among unvaccinated or under-vaccinated individuals.”

“Everyone should make sure they are up to date on the [measles mumps rubella] vaccine. Two doses of [the measles mumps rubella] vaccine are about 97% effective at preventing measles if exposed to the virus,” the CDC stated.

Measles, in addition to being potentially lethal, can weaken the immune system for months, making an individual vulnerable to other diseases. The two-dose vaccination has been around for decades, and is credited with drastically reducing the virus’s prevalence in the United States.

But anti-vaccine sentiments have gained steam in recent years, buoyed by debates around the covid-19 pandemic. Some Republican state legislators, such as in Wisconsin and Georgia, introduced measures aimed at easing mandates to receive standard inoculations for elementary school students, such as the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, The Post reported.