Oakland County child who traveled outside US has Michigan’s first measles case in 5 years

This story appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Read the full story here.

An Oakland County child has the first confirmed case of measles in Michigan since 2019, the state health department announced Friday.

The child with the infection traveled internationally recently, and as of Friday afternoon, state health officials said they do not believe people were exposed outside the child’s household.

Measles is among the most contagious viruses, but can be prevented by vaccines. It is spread by direct person-to-person contact and through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can live for up to two hours in the air where the infected person was present.

Those most at risk include those who are unvaccinated, those who don’t know their immunization status, pregnant women and those who have a weakened immune system because of illness and diseases like HIV, malnutrition and/or medications.

Symptoms of measles usually begin seven to 14 days after exposure, but can appear up to 21 days after exposure and may include:

  • High fever (may spike to over 104°F).
  • Cough.
  • Runny nose.
  • Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
  • Tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of the mouth that appear two to three days after symptoms begin.
  • A rash that is red, raised, blotchy; usually starts on the face, spreads to the trunk, arms and legs three to five days after symptoms begin.

Complications can include pneumonia, swelling of the brain, ear infections that result in permanent hearing loss, preterm births and low-birthweight babies.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves and our loved ones from potential outbreaks of diseases like measles,” Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive, said in a statement. “It is important to make sure our families are up to date on all routine vaccines to prevent the spread of severe illness and disease. Now is a great time to check with your health care provider to make sure you are current with all your vaccines.”

If symptoms develop, health officials say you should not visit your doctor or hospital emergency room unless you call ahead so health care providers can take precautions to prevent the exposure of other people.

Vaccination percentages fall; cases rise

People who don’t have documentation of two measles (MMR) vaccines from a doctor or on the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, or those who don’t know whether they’ve been vaccinated, should contact their health care providers or visit a vaccine clinic.

Ninety percent of people who are unvaccinated who are exposed to measles will become infected, state health leaders said, and about 20% people who get measles will be hospitalized.

Michigan’s case comes as outbreaks are being reported in other parts of the U.S., and as immunization coverage has dropped. This year alone, 35 measles cases have been reported in 15 other states.

In Michigan, vaccine coverage for the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine for children 4 to 6 years old has fallen from 89.4% in 2017 to 84% in 2022. Among children ages 19-35 months old, vaccine coverage has dropped from 84.7% in April 2020 to 83.6% in December 2023, state health officials said.

A single dose of measles vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing measles, while two doses are about 97% effective. It is also can work prophylactically if used within 72 hours of a measles exposure to prevent illness.

Michigan residents can contact their health care provider or visit their local health department for additional information about getting vaccinated or to schedule an appointment.

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You’ve got questions. That’s a good thing.

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