The Tennessee Department of Health says the State Public Health Laboratory has recorded the state’s first case of measles in the recent nationwide outbreak of the disease. The case was confirmed in an East Tennessee resident. No additional information about the person is being released at this time.
The Tennessee Department of Health said while the investigation into the measles outbreak is centered in East Tennessee, all residents should be aware of the disease and its symptoms.
Symptoms of measles may include fever, runny nose, body aches, watery eyes and white spots in the mouth. A red, spotty rash generally accompanies these symptoms, with initiation on the face, spreading across the body.
Nearly one third of measles patients develop ear infections, diarrhea or pneumonia. And although rare, measles can be fatal in approximately one to two out of every 1,000 cases.
State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, M.D., said the Tennessee Department of Health is focusing its efforts on preventing the spread of the disease. “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,” Jones said.
So far this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 555 individual cases of measles in 20 states; that represents nearly 200 more cases than were seen throughout all of 2018, and the greatest number of cases in a single reporting year since 2014.
California, Michigan, New Jersey and New York are currently experiencing what have been described as major measles outbreaks.
TDH says the measles virus is highly contagious, and can remain airborne or live on surfaces for up to two hours. Symptoms may not appear for up to five days, although recently infected people may be able to transmit the disease for about five days before the typical rash appears.
The TDH urges all Tennesseans to ensure their MMR – measles-mumps-rubella – vaccines are up to date. And if you or a loved one are experiencing measles symptoms, or believe you may have been exposed, call first before going to a health facility to keep from infecting others.
Children in Tennessee should have their first measles vaccinations between the ages of 12 and 15 months, with a follow-up dose at four to six years of age. Teens and adults should consult their physicians to ensure they are protected.
Tennessee has recorded 15 cases of measles in the last decade, due in large part to relatively high vaccination rates.
If you have questions about measles, contact a healthcare provider, your local health department or the TDH measles hotline: (865) 549-5343. The line is staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Central Time, until further notice.