Measles Cases in Tennessee Now Being Investigated
Vaccinations Urged to Prevent Future Cases
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health is now investigating five cases of measles in Madison, Shelby, Gibson, Hamilton and Hardeman counties. People in additional counties may have been exposed to measles due to some patients travelling while unknowingly being contagious.
The measles cases in Tennessee appear to have started with one traveler who was exposed to the illness in another country. The other four cases are individuals who were known to have been in close contact with the first patient. TDH is now investigating close contacts of the five persons in Tennessee known to have the illness. While the focus is currently on five counties, all Tennesseans should be aware of their vulnerability.
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 rash appears. Symptoms of measles usually appear within one to two weeks after exposure and 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.
For some, measles can be deadly; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates measles caused 164,000 deaths worldwide as recently as 2008. Safe and effective vaccinations are readily available across Tennessee to prevent measles. All members of the public of any age considering international travel, including the parents of infants and toddlers, should consult their healthcare provider about their risk of measles and evaluate their need for the MMR vaccine.
“When people should be vaccinated depends on age, medical conditions, travel plans and other factors,” said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD. “While many recent cases are linked to travel to other countries where measles immunizations programs are not on par with the United States, almost anyone of any age, at any place, can be exposed to the measles virus. While you may not go out of the country, you may come in contact with people who do. Being properly vaccinated is critical in preventing measles. Talk with your health care provider about what is best for you and your family.”
For more information about measles, visit www.cdc.gov/measles/index.html.
The Tennessee Department of Health is notifying clinicians across the state, via its Tennessee Health Alert Network messaging system, to have heightened awareness about measles. TDH is also providing information about healthcare workers needing to have two measles vaccinations to ensure protection from contracting or spreading the illness.
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 http://health.state.tn.us/.