NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A resident in East Tennessee tested positive for the measles, a news release from the Tennessee Department of Health said Thursday, and that same patient may have exposed people in Mississippi to the virus while traveling.
It is the first case of the illness in Tennessee in 2019.
The state and Knox County Health Department have released no further details about the patient, where they are from or where others could have been exposed. Both departments are closed for Good Friday.
However, the health department for the State of Mississippi held a press conference on Friday about a Tennessee resident with a confirmed case of measles who traveled to that state. They said the man from Tennessee was not vaccinated but had no further identifying information.
The man was in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, from April 9-11, and they are trying to get the word out to people who may have been exposed. Health officials in Mississippi have not identified any related measles cases so far.
"While the investigation is currently centered in East Tennessee, all Tennesseans should be aware of measles and its symptoms," the release said. "These symptoms may include fever, runny nose, body aches, watery eyes and white spots in the mouth. The illness is typically accompanied by a red, spotty rash that begins on the face and spreads over the body. Nearly one in three measles patients will develop ear infections, diarrhea or pneumonia. Measles can be fatal in approximately one to two out of every 1,000 cases."
Tennessee has only had 15 cases of measles in the last decade, according to the release, due to "relatively high vaccination rates."
"Our efforts are focused on preventing the spread of illness to others,” TDH State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD, said in the release. “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.”
Tennesseans should know the virus is highly contagious and people recently infected may not show any symptoms of the illness for five days, but could still infect others before the typical rash appears, TDH said in the release.
“Most people in Tennessee are vaccinated against measles and that’s important, but infants and those with weakened immune systems are still at high risk for infection,” TDH Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP, said in the release. “The measles-mumps-rubella or MMR vaccine is safe and widely available. Call your health care provider to check your immunization status and schedule your vaccine if you haven’t had one.”
TDH urges everyone to make sure they are up-to-date on their MMR vaccines.
Anyone who believes they or someone they know has measles symptoms should call first before going to a health care facility to prevent others from being exposed to the virus, the release said.
Anyone with questions on the measles can call this hotline number 865-549-5343. The hotline is operated from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST daily.