While the Alabama Department of Public Health announced Friday a 5-month-old girl in St. Clair County originally feared to have measles didn’t have them after all, the state still has 82 open investigations of the virus and reported cases in 23 states have spiked to their highest level in 25 years.
There are more than 700 reported cases of measles nationally according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measles was considered eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.
The state health department originally said a girl in St. Clair County tested positive for measles but additional testing and analysis by the CDC concluded she didn’t.
Despite that, a local health official advised residents of Tallapoosa County and Alexander City to be aware of the symptoms.
“I’m not going to say it wouldn’t happen,” said Traci Kelley, the infection prevention coordinator for Russell Medical.
Measles is a viral respiratory illness living in the nose and throat mucus of infected people. A single measles case will infect up to 95 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed, according to the ADPH.
Up to 30 percent of infected people have complications from the disease, especially children younger than 5 or adults older than 20.
“It’s very contagious,” Kelley said. “It’s spread through the air by coughing or sneezing from someone who has it. Back in the day, you didn’t choose not to get the vaccine. Now it’s an option. Normally you get the first vaccination at 12 to 15 months and the second one at 4 to 6 years. Anyone born before 1957 is considered immune. Healthcare workers or children should have already had the MMR vaccine. If you’re born after 1957, you should have been vaccinated.”
Kelley said local residents should be aware of measles symptoms which usually appear a week to two weeks after a person is infected and include:
• A high fever up to 105 degrees.
• A cough, runny nose and red or watery eyes.
• Tiny white spots inside the mouth two to three days after symptoms begin.
• A rash of flat red spots starting on the face and spreading to the neck, chest, arms, legs and feet three to five days after symptoms begin.
• Small raised bumps that may appear on the flat red spots.
Common complications could include ear infections, hearing loss and diarrhea. Severe complications could include pneumonia, swelling of the brain and death.
“You’re considered contagious from four days before the rash appears to four days after it appears,” Kelley said. “If you have those symptoms, go see your doctor. Stay alert to information being put out and make sure you’re vaccinated. But you have to have a titer check first. You normally wouldn’t ask for that unless you’re going into healthcare or you’re working with children.”