Measles Cases in Shelby County Now Being Investigated

Friday, April 22, 2016 | 10:44am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health and the Shelby County Health Department are investigating two cases of measles after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday afternoon confirmed positive tests for the illness in two Memphis-area residents. At this time there is no known connection between the two individuals and the source of the virus has not yet been identified. TDH, SCHD and the CDC anticipate additional measles cases to be confirmed in the Memphis area.

While the investigation is currently centered in Shelby County, all Tennesseans should have heightened awareness about measles and its symptoms. These symptoms may include a blotchy rash, runny nose, fever, aches, watery eyes and white spots in the mouth. Nearly one in three patients will develop ear infections, diarrhea or pneumonia.

The measles virus is highly contagious and can stay airborne or live on surfaces for up to two hours. Recently infected people 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 because it takes a very high vaccination rate to protect vulnerable people like infants and people with weakened immune systems from measles,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “The measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR vaccine is safe and readily available across Tennessee, and your health care provider can provide guidance for when people should get it. Please, be sure you are up-to date on MMR, and if you or someone you love have measles symptoms, 'call before you go' to a health care center to keep others from being exposed. If you have a question about what to do, call your health care provider or local health department."

"Our staff members are working collaboratively with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on this investigation," said SCHD Director Alisa Haushalter, DNP, RN. "Additionally, SCHD is working to identify any individuals who have been in contact with the confirmed cases. We urge residents in our community to make sure their vaccinations are up-to-date."

“Our combined efforts are focused on preventing the spread of illness to others,” said TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “This appearance of measles is a reminder about the importance of vaccines and how they can particularly protect our most vulnerable, including infants and those with compromised immune systems.”

In Tennessee, thanks to good efforts by parents to have their children immunized with two doses of the measles vaccine, there have only been nine previous cases of measles since 2004. 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. People six months and older should be protected against measles before leaving for international trips. 

For more information about measles, visit

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at