Lincoln County monitoring for measles outbreak

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EC/ECHO/Pierre Prakash / To help prevent a measles outbreak, the Mississippi Department of Health encourages all children 12 months and older to be up-to-date on the vaccines.

EC/ECHO/Pierre Prakash / To help prevent a measles outbreak, the Mississippi Department of Health encourages all children 12 months and older to be up-to-date on the vaccines.

The Lincoln County Health Department began monitoring for a measles outbreak last week after four unimmunized north Mississippi residents were exposed to the virus in Shelby County, Tennessee.

While no cases have been confirmed in Mississippi, the Mississippi State Department of Health is monitoring these exposed individuals closely. They are under home quarantine and the supervision of a physician.

Public Health District 7 immunization nurse Martie Herrington said since the exposed residents were quarantined in north Mississippi, Lincoln County and District 7 are staying on high alert for any residents who present signs of the virus.

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“We’re about to have a conference for the whole state, where we are partnering with Tennessee and Alabama to come up with a plan for the outbreak,” Herrington said. “We have alerted all of the health care workers of the outbreak. Right now, we are doing surveillance every day. We have nurses that call the hospitals to check for anything out of the ordinary. Our monitoring protocol is the same as the flu. We are just trying to be on the look out.”

Measles is a Class One reportable condition requiring notification to MSDH within 24 hours.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs said this outbreak proves why getting and remaining up to date on vaccinations is critically important.

“Measles is literally knocking at our back door. This is a highly contagious, airborne disease and is easily spread from person to person. Unvaccinated individuals are highly susceptible to infection. This is a potentially deadly virus; infants and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk,” he said.

The MSDH is strongly recommending that parents of children 12 months of age or older who are behind on measles vaccination call a primary healthcare provider immediately.

“The best way to prevent an outbreak of measles is to immunize your children,” Herrington said. “Parents don’t realize that children can die of measles. People can die of measles. We have not had an outbreak in a long time because of vaccinations.”

Tennessee reported seven confirmed cases as of Tuesday. The Shelby County Health Department has a website listing location sites and times where infected individuals may have exposed others. Mississippi residents who have recently traveled to the area can go to for more information and instructions. People can get sick up to 21 days after exposure to measles. Mississippi residents with possible exposure should call his or her medical provider immediately if they develop fever or rash within 21 days.

Measles is a highly contagious, vaccine-preventable viral infection that starts with a high fever, runny nose, cough and red eyes, followed a few days later by a rash that starts on the head and gradually moves down the body. It is usually a relatively mild illness but can result in complications, including pneumonia or inflammation of the brain, that require hospitalization.

People who contract the measles virus can spread the infection for four days before developing a rash and for four days after the rash starts. Measles can spread easily through the air to people who are not vaccinated or who have not had measles before.

For more information about the measles outbreak or to get the measles vaccine, contact the Lincoln County Health Department at 601-833-3314.