The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed the first 2019 case of measles in East Tennessee.
The department said is investigating after the State Public Health Laboratory confirmed a positive test for the illness in a resident of East Tennessee.
While the investigation is currently centered in East Tennessee, all Tennesseans should be aware of measles and its symptoms, the Health Department said. These symptoms may include fever, runny nose, body aches, watery eyes and white spots in the mouth. The illness is typically accompanied by a red, spotty rash that begins on the face and spreads over the body. Nearly one in three measles patients will develop ear infections, diarrhea or pneumonia. Measles can be fatal in about one to two out of every 1,000 cases.
“Our efforts are focused on preventing the spread of illness to others,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones.
The measles virus is highly contagious and can stay airborne or live on surfaces for up to two hours. People recently infected with measles may not have any symptoms of illness, but can transmit the virus for about five days before the typical measles rash appears.
“Most people in Tennessee are vaccinated against measles and that’s important, but infants and those with weakened immune systems are still at high risk for infection,” said TDH Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey.
All Tennesseans are urged to ensure they are up-to-date on MMR vaccine. Anyone who believes they or a loved one has measles symptoms should call first before going to a health care facility to keep others from being exposed.
People with questions should call a health care provider, the local health department or a hotline to provide answers about measles. The hotline number is 865-549-5343; calls to the hotline will be answered from 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Central/8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Eastern daily.
Tennessee has had only 15 cases of measles in the last decade due to relatively high vaccination rates, the department said. All children should have their first measles vaccinations at age 12-15 months, followed by a second dose at four to six years of age. Teens and adults should check with their doctors to make sure they are protected against measles. Talk with your health care provider about vaccination before leaving for international trips.
For more information about measles, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far this year, 555 people have been diagnosed with measles in the U.S., the CDC said.
Dr. John DeVincenzo, an infectious disease specialist with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, attributes the rise to global travel and people and parents who’ve chosen not to vaccinate, WREG said.
“You’ve got at least 4 million or more children in the U.S. that are completely susceptible to measles, and those kids need to be protected against measles by the rest of us doing our non-selfish duty to get vaccinated,” DeVincenzo said.
Eyal Amiel, an assistant professor of Biomedicine and Health Sciences at University of Vermont, told CBS News that the measles component of the MMR vaccine provides lifetime protection, citing the CDC. The mumps and rubella portions are not as long-lived. One dose of the MMR vaccine protects against measles at 93 percent efficacy (93 percent of people will receive the protective benefit), while two doses of the vaccine provides 96-97 percent efficacy.
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