published Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Regional health officials warn of measles risk


by Emily Bregel

MEASLES SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

• High fever is usually the first sign, beginning 10 to 12 days after exposure.

• Runny nose, cough, red, watery eyes, and small white spots inside the cheek.

• Rash on the face and upper neck develops, which eventually spreads.

• Most deaths occur from complications related to the disease, including brain swelling, severe diarrhea and severe respiratory infections.

• Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles but any non-immune person — anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated or previously recovered from the disease — can become infected.

Source: World Health Organization

Georgia health officials are warning of the risk of measles in response to reports of cases of the infectious disease throughout the U.S.

“As measles cases continue to occur sporadically nationwide, now is the perfect time to remind Georgians of the role each of us plays in keeping our community healthy,” Anil T. Mangla, director of infectious disease and immunization and acting state epidemiologist, said in a Thursday news release. “Getting immunized is the most effective way to prevent the spread of this preventable disease.”

two tennessee cases

No cases have been reported in Georgia, but two cases this year were reported in Tennessee.

Both patients, adults who contracted measles while traveling together in France, have recovered fully, said Dr. Kelly Moore, medical director of the Tennessee immunization program.

Immunization coverage levels in Europe have dropped after unfounded reports of vaccines causing autism, and vaccine coverage was low enough to allow measles to come back, Moore said.

“Often people don’t think about being up on their shots to go to France or England or Switzerland,” she said. “It’s important for travelers to be up to date” on immunizations.

In the U.S., widespread immunization has made measles rare, but officials are emphasizing the importance of maintaining that coverage, in particular to protect children under age 1, who are too young to be immunized.

international risk

In Hamilton County, there has not been a measles case reported in 10 years, said Nettie Gerstle, communicable disease program manager for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

“However, with the frequency of national and international travel, the possibility of measles and other contagious diseases being brought into our community always exists,” she said in an e-mail.

20 cases in u.s.

As of Feb. 11, there were 20 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seventeen of those cases were linked to travel outside the U.S.

Measles is the leading cause of death among young children globally. The measles vaccine has resulted in a 78 percent drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2008 worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Measles is an infection of the respiratory system caused by a virus, specifically a paramyxovirus of the genus Morbillivirus. The illness was commonly caught by children until the mid-20th century.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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