CLINTON, Tennessee — The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has identified two locations, one in Clinton and one in Chattanooga, where people may have been exposed to measles after the department confirmed one case had been identified in East Tennessee.

The Knox County Health Dept. said the patient is a man who is not from Knox County, but who spends time here. We also know that he traveled in Mississippi from April 9-11 while he was contagious, then stopped at two locations in Alabama as he was traveling home on April 11.

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According to a release from TDH, People who were at either of these locations during the dates and times specified below may have been exposed to measles:

  • Mapco
    • 200 Browns Ferry Road, Chattanooga
    • April 11, 2019 from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Speedway 
    • 2148 North Charles G. Seviers Blvd., Clinton 
    • April 12, 2019 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the man may have exposed people at two places on April 11:

  • D & J Travel Plaza, 651 Highway 28, W, Livingston, AL at 2:20 p.m. 
  • Chick-fil-A, 1824 Glenn Blvd. SW, Fort Payne AL at 5:54 p.m.

We know the man may have visited other locations, but so far, state health officials feel that they've been able to identify more than 600 people he may have come in contact with in those places and contact them directly.

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When officials learn about places where the public may have been exposed, according to Dr. Tim Jones, the state epidemiologist with the Tennessee Department of Health, they work aggressively to identify anyone who was there. If it's in a place like an emergency room or doctor's office, there's a good chance they can identify everyone at risk and contact them directly. If the possible exposure happens in a public place, like a restaurant or gas station, they will notify the public through the media.

Sometimes, Jones said in a press conference on Wednesday, it can take time for someone to remember every place they might have been while they were contagious. He implied that in this case, the man may not have remembered stopping at these two gas stations until a later interview.

Anyone who was at either location during those times should check their vaccination status, watch for symptoms of the illness if they are not vaccinated and then contact their doctor and stay home if they develop symptoms of the disease, the health department said in the release.

There is no concern if visited those stations outside of the times listed. Dr. Jones said that because the virus is airborne, once the person has been gone for a two hours, the risk is gone. 

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If you think you have been exposed, there is benefit to reacting quickly. If you are within 72 hours of possible exposure, a dose of the measles vaccine could keep you from contracting the illness. After that time, however, it would protect you in the future, but not immediately.

The measles virus has a very long incubation period--- 21 days, and you can become symptomatic at any time during that period. Most people become sick on day 10 or 12.

Jones said Tennessee has been very lucky so far to only have one case amidst a national outbreak of the measles involving 22 states so far, and that he would not be surprised if there were more measles cases diagnosed in Tennessee.

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Measles symptoms include fever, runny nose, body aches, watery eyes and white spots in the mouth, the release said, and several days after those symptoms appear, a red, spotty rash typically begins on the face and spreads over the body. These symptoms may develop any time in the 21 days after someone is exposed to the measles. About one in three measles patients will experience ear infections, diarrhea or pneumonia, according to the release.

“Most people in Tennessee are vaccinated against measles and are protected against this illness,” Jones said. “This appearance of measles is a reminder about the importance of vaccines in protecting our population, and we urge everyone who has not been vaccinated to do so now to protect themselves, their families, their coworkers and their communities.” 

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Anyone with questions about how to protect themselves against the disease should call a health care provider, their local health department or the measles hotline at 865-549-5343.  The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. every day.